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The role of the caregiver is intense and dynamic. Providing care to a loved one is rewarding, but for too many, care for another can come at the cost of their own health (physical or mental). Due to this, caregivers are especially prone to feelings of compassion fatigue. If left unchecked, compassion fatigue can escalate into a full-on burnout. Though burnout and compassion fatigue are similar in both causes and symptoms, they are not quite the same. In a recent livestream, a California Caregiver Resource Center representative partnered with the California State University of Chico to explain what burnout and compassion fatigue are, how to tell the difference, and how to prevent them from happening to you.

Check out the livestream by clicking here.

Compassion Fatigue & Burnout || Livestream Context

To inform the discussion on compassion fatigue and burnout, let’s define and add context to these terms. 

What is Compassion Fatigue?

To define compassion fatigue, let’s start with the definition of compassion. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, compassion is, “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Those who experience deep compassion as a caregiver may be more prone to compassion fatigue, defined next.

Compassion fatigue then is fittingly defined (also by the Merriam-Webster dictionary) as “the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time.”

In other words, compassion fatigue for caregivers is usually the result of repeated exposure to, or secondhand experience of, the reality of traumatic life events. Though it’s caused by repeated exposure to extreme stress over time, the feeling appears suddenly. You may wake up one day and realize you feel completely apathetic, indifferent, or disinterested in the events and experiences of others. This can be a sign of compassion fatigue.

What is Burnout?

Burnout, on the other hand, is much more gradual. It is not something that a caregiver will experience overnight. Instead, it’s a slow progression (much like depression) that takes time. The symptoms and experiences start to build on each other and it progresses. 

According to Healthline, almost every caregiver will experience burnout at some point during their caregiving journey.

Burnout is something that can be clinically diagnosed (though through a series of questions – it cannot be confirmed with standard medical assessments such as a blood test). There are also questionnaires you can take to self-assess whether or not you’re experiencing burnout. 

It is the result of emotional highs and lows – experiencing both mental and physical exhaustion.

How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout and Emotional Fatigue

In an informative livestream presented by the California Caregiver Resource Center and the California State University of Chico, you’ll learn the warning signs for compassion fatigue and burnout as well as tips for prevention.

Check out the livestream by clicking here.

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