Mental Health America conducted a survey of health care workers during COVID-19 from June 2020 through September. Responses showed 93% of health care workers were stressed, 86% anxious, 77% frustrated, 75% overwhelmed and 75% exhausted and feeling burnout.
Caring for people with Alzheimer's is highly stressful at times, and with the challenges and workload from the pandemic, it is no surprise that many caregivers are experiencing burnout. It could be a condition known as "compassion fatigue."
The Rev. Samuel Wood, an author and compassion fatigue educator, defines it as the natural consequence of stress resulting from caring for and helping traumatized or suffering people or animals.
In addition to sleep difficulties, mood swings and appetite changes, health care workers often experience anger and irritability, withdrawal, loss of enjoyment in the vocation, depression, low self-esteem and difficulty concentrating. They may also develop a disparaging attitude toward the people they serve and neglect family members and friends. They may also get more vocal about complaints, become consistently irritable, lose patience more often and find enthusiasm for the work has diminished.
At the height of compassion fatigue, a health care professional may suffer from physical and/or emotional issues and be at risk for leaving his or her profession.
Health care professionals who experience these symptoms should get support from co-workers, a licensed counselor or a social worker.
Those in health care and others should also practice self-care strategies, including keeping connected to other professionals and understanding that such fatigue is not a character flaw.
They should remind themselves of why they went into health care in the first place and the difference they make in the lives of others.
Exercise. Go for a walk. Do things you love.
Know that the need will always surpass the resources, and without self care, eventually you will not be able to care for anyone else.
The joy of caregiving can return with life balance. And know that your community owes you a debt of gratitude for remaining on the front line during the pandemic crisis and after it.