"Keeping Older Adults at Home: Are Family/Friend Caregivers at Risk for Compassion Fatigue? and Compassion Fatigue in Family Caregivers Located in Long-Term Care Facilities"
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“Keeping older adults at home: Are family/friend caregivers at risk for compassion fatigue?” In Canada there are an estimated 2.7 million family/friend caregivers, including 216,000 over age 75. These older adult family/friend caregivers are an essential resource in maintaining care recipients in their own homes and out of institutions. Carers UK has defined family/friend caregivers as people who "provide unpaid care by looking after an ill, frail or disabled family member, friend or partner”. Compassion fatigue (CF) threatens the ability of these family/friend caregivers to continue care provision long term. Compassion fatigue has been defined as “a heavy heart, a debilitating weariness brought about by repetitive, empathic responses to pain and suffering others” (LaRowe, 2005, p. 21). Potentially, CF brings with it many negative consequences ranging from apathy and depression to hypertension and errors in judgment (Jackson, 2003). Although there is a body of literature related to CF in professional caregivers, CF has not been researched in relation to friend/family caregivers. Further, the literature concerning family/friend caregiver burden and caregiver burnout has not described the relationship, if any, between these concepts. This presentation will provide an overview of the literature related to compassion fatigue in professional caregivers and suggest linkages to family/friend caregiving. Initial reflections about the relationship between caregiver burden, caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue will be outlined. Research describing the incidence, prevalence and experience of CF in family/friend caregivers will inform strategies to support family/friend caregivers to continue to provide care. This has implications for caregiver and care recipient well-being and financial implications for the public health care system. Jackson, C. (2003). The gift to listen, the courage to hear. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress. LaRowe, K. (2005). Breath of relief: transforming compassion fatigue into flow. Acanthus Publishing, Boston, Mass 2) “Compassion fatigue in family caregivers located in long-term care facilities” The caregiving role has most often been associated with care provided in the home and community by family members. It is mistakenly believed that placing a family member in a Long Term Care (LTC) facility marks the end of the caregiving role. Research by Schultz and co-workers dispute the myth that family members abandon caregiving role when older adult relatives are admitted to a LTC facility (2004). Rather, the majority of family caregivers visit their relatives regularly, perform personal care duties, and take on administrative and advocacy roles in relation to their relatives care (Schultz et al, 2004). In light of the changing face of care provision in LTC the role of family caregivers in this setting appears to be expanding rather than waning. With increasing shortages of health care personnel, family members are now more than ever being called upon to be directly involved in the care of their family members who are residents in LTC facilities. The qualitative research study reported in this presentation was an exploration of factors contributing to compassion fatigue (CF) in family caregivers. Compassion fatigue has been defined as “a heavy heart, a debilitating weariness brought about by repetitive, empathic responses to pain and suffering others” (LaRowe, 2005, p. 21). The major themes revealed were relentless vigilance, consistent inconsistence, role confusion, and loss and despair. Practical recommendations for preventing or minimizing compassion fatigue in family caregivers are described. LaRowe, K. (2005). Breath of relief: transforming compassion fatigue into flow. Acanthus Publishing, Boston, Mass Schulz, R., Belle, S.H., Czaja, S.J., Mcginnis, K.A., Stevens, A. & Zhang, S. (2004). Long-term care placement of dementia patients and caregiver health and well-being. JAMA, 292(8), 961-67.