Alzheimer’s: The Primary Caregiver and How to Deal with Compassion Fatigue

In our society and culture, caring is an act based on the sense of affection and/or love for others. During the development of the Alzheimer disease In the life of a close family member, the caregiver experiences how the deterioration of the individual’s functioning transforms their loved one into a dependent person in need of care.

The act of providing care to another human being on a permanent basis includes participation in the pleasant and unpleasant moments of the sick person. The caregiver’s experience of seeing how their loved one has changed into a dependent being, as well as investing most of their time caring for them, can lead the caregiver to develop overload, exhaustion, and compassion fatigue.

The Concepts of Overload, Burnout, and Compassion Fatigue They are usually studied as two different phenomena. However, they are widely related and their symptoms can be experienced by anyone who focuses on service and care for another human being, such as caregivers of people with dementia.

Now, let’s define the concepts: Compassion fatigue is a phenomenon mostly used to explain symptoms experienced by professionals and/or volunteers who are frequently exposed to the suffering of another human being.. While the concept of caregiver overload or exhaustion is used to explain the phenomenon experienced by the caregiver who lives with, cares for, and is responsible for the well-being of a person who needs care.

Both phenomena agree that the manifestations of exhaustion and fatigue depend on the emotional bond that develops or exists between the person providing care and the person receiving it. This occurs when the caregiver focuses on the needs of the other and does not achieve a balance in maintaining healthy self-care practices. It is when social and interpersonal problems can be observed, changes in eating habits, rest limitations, generalized worry and changes in mood where sadness and/or anger are experienced.

In this sense, a large part of caregivers begin to develop symptoms of exhaustion that include insomnia, muscle tension, headaches and gastrointestinal problems, in addition to withdrawing from activities that can be for their physical, mental and social benefit. In fact, there are risk factors that can lead the caregiver to experience overload or exhaustion and fatigue more acutely, such as being a sole caregiver, low self-esteem, maladaptive coping mechanisms, financial problems, frustration tolerance difficulties, and unrealistic expectations about your loved one’s health.

Strategies that can help

Be Being aware of your attitudes and self-perception can help you better manage your emotions, including negative ones such as anger and anger, which once experienced can lead to feelings of guilt. In fact, the experience of guilt and unrealistic expectations for a long time can lead to exhaustion and fatigue.

Therefore, taking into account the physical and emotional needs of the caregiver can put into perspective that caring for another human being does not require perfection on the part of the caregiver, that we do not always have the energy, enthusiasm and sufficient motivation, it is a natural and normal part. of the experience itself. What can the caregiver do to reduce exhaustion and fatigue?

Prevent exhaustion and fatigue. One of the essential strategies that can help the caregiver is to have adequate information about their family member’s illness. Knowing in advance what needs may arise in the future can provide the knowledge to develop an action plan before these changes occur.

Share the care of the family member with the people who are available. Additionally, it is important to seek help from organizations and associations that can provide some type of services for your family member and caregiver.

Do not abandon recreational, social or entertainment activities. The caregiver should do everything possible not to abandon the activities they previously did, although they may have to reduce them.

♦ Maintain a support system to help prevent and manage burnout. Caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s disease is a task full of challenges and complicated situations that does not have many gratifying moments of altruistic well-being. However, you need a well-being space that allows you to recharge with physical and psychological energy. The caregiver must remember that to care you have to take care of yourself; Asking and receiving help is not a sign of weakness, it is a human need.

The author is an associate professor at Albizu University, Faculty Psy D Program

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