Category Archives: Family Caregiver

Compassion Fatigue: Caring too Much

Any senior care professional is vulnerable to Compassion Fatigue.  For example, nurses, doctors, counselors, veterinarians, therapists, social workers, chaplains, emergency response workers, and people caring for aging parents. So, what is Compassion Fatigue?

Dr. Charles Figley, describes Compassion Fatigue as, “ a state experienced by those helping people in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it is traumatizing for the helper.”  Furthermore,  “The capacity for compassion and empathy seems to be at the core of our ability to do the work and at the core of our ability to be wounded by the work”.  Compassion fatigue results from the cumulative impact of taking care of people living with serious illness, trauma, abuse, or severe conditions.”  It’s different than job burnout, which is dissatisfaction with our job situation, not the work itself.

But how do you recognize compassionate fatigue?  The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project tells us characteristics include:

  • Withdrawing from others
  • Difficulty connecting – detaching
  • Feeling angry that other caregivers don’t understand the nature of your service
  • Life feels too serious
  • Turning to compulsive or addictive behaviors such as overeating, overspending, alcohol, smoking, etc.
  • Physical symptoms: headaches, gastrointestinal symptoms, muscle tension.
  • Fatigue and apathy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoiding work. Calling in sick or postponing appointments
  • Thinking that this work isn’t for you (when you know in your heart you really love it)

So, how can we avoid Compassion Fatigue? The answer lies in self-care, typically physical support like regular exercise, getting enough sleep and good nutrition. However we shouldn’t stop there. Nancy Jo Bush, an oncology nurse, says that self-care also includes setting empathetic boundaries; self awareness and self forgiveness; being in tune with one’s spirituality and finding hope. Experts agree that reaching out to others and developing a support system is critical.

A friend working in hospice shared a bit of wisdom. Lighten up and don’t forget to laugh. That reminds me of an old Joni Mitchell lyric, “Laughing and crying, you know it’s the same release.” Thanks, Joni. We’ll all try to remember that!

In conclusion, who would you turn to if you needed the support of an understanding friend?

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT is a recognized expert in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She guides professionals in discovering Compassionate Touch in person centered dementia care. She is a team member of AGE-u-cate Training Institute.

Did Your Know that Practicing Gratitude Can Actually Improve Your Health and Well Being

Don’t you enjoy being around people who are naturally grateful?  Can we cultivate an attitude of gratefulness ourselves?  Of course, we can!  Practicing gratitude not only is good for our souls but can improve our health and well- being.

Let’s look at some research:

  • A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, it was concluded that subjects who wrote down what they’re thankful for just before bed fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer.
  • A University of Utah study showed that gratefulness is linked with optimism, and optimism has been linked to a better and stronger immune system.
  • A 1995 study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that appreciation and positive emotions may be beneficial in the treatment of hypertension and in reducing the likelihood of sudden death in patients with congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease.
  • A 2003 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude can boost pro-social behaviors, such as helping and lending emotional support to others, while a series of experiments detailed in the same journal concluded that a daily practice of listing all the things for which you are thankful is linked with a brighter outlook on life and a greater sense of positivity.

Like other good habits, practicing gratitude can be learned – at any age!  Here are a few suggestions for fostering gratitude in your life.

  • Keep a gratitude journal where you write down specifically what you are thankful for.  You’ll be amazed at how long your list becomes with a regular habit of journal writing.
  • Take a break a few times a day to focus on a spirit of thankfulness.  It might be a moment of meditation, prayer or walk in the garden.  Just slowing down for a moment to think about the things in your life that you are thankful for will become a habit of practicing gratitude.
  • Surround yourself with thankful people!  This may sound simple, but gratitude is contagious and being around people who are practicing gratitude will naturally be a mood lifter.
  • Share with others what you are thankful for.  It will not only help you in practicing gratitude but will also reinforce your feelings and inspire others.

Like any habit, gratitude gets easier with daily practice.  Let today be the first day of your healthy, grateful life!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  Please let me know if you this is helpful!

Recognizing the Work of Long-Term Care Ombudsman

In recognition of National Volunteer’s month,  I’d like to honor the people who serve as long-term care ombudsman.  Many people do not realize the important role they play in keeping our elders safe by advocating for their rights.

The long-term care ombudsman program is mandated by state and federal law and funded by the Older Americans Act  (OAA) through the Executive Office of Elder Affairs.  Under this Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long-term care system.

According to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC), each state has an Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (Office), headed by a full-time State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (Ombudsman) who directs the program statewide. Across the nation, staff and thousands of volunteers are designated by State Ombudsmen as representatives to directly serve residents.

What is the Responsibility of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman? 

The Ombudsman program advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, assisted living facilities, and other similar adult care facilities. State Ombudsmen and their designated representatives work to resolve problems individual residents face and effect change at the local, state, and national levels to improve quality of care. In addition to identifying, investigating, and resolving complaints, Ombudsman program responsibilities include:

  • Educating residents, their family and facility staff about residents’ rights, good care practices, and similar long-term services and support resources;
  • Ensuring residents have regular and timely access to ombudsman services;
  • Providing technical support for the development of resident and family councils;
  • Advocating for changes to improve residents’ quality of life and care;
  • Providing information to the public regarding long-term care facilities and services, residents’
  • rights, and legislative and policy issues;
  • Representing resident interests before governmental agencies; and
  • Seeking legal, administrative and other remedies to protect residents.

We are honored to train many long-term care ombudsman on our programs.  Their dedication and passion to help older adults are admirable.  As our aging population swells, more people will reside in care facilities and the need for more ombudsman is growing.  We encourage others to consider volunteering for this organization.  You may contact your local Area Agency on Aging or the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Center to learn more.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  

Honoring a Loved One with Trees for Change

In celebration of Earth Day, I want to share an organization that I recently became acquainted with that is supporting the efforts of saving our National Forests.  Trees for Change is a wonderful option for honoring a loved one or pet.

According to Trees for Change, the U.S. National Forests cover 8.5 percent of the United States, providing roughly 190 million acres of woodlands that serve as the home to many species of animals. These lands belong to all of us and are meant to help preserve the environment for future generations.

Sometimes, areas of U.S. National Forests need our help. When wildfires rip through them, wildlife becomes displaced, and the forests are badly scorched. Replanting trees can help to regrow these areas in order to ensure that they can one day become homes for wildlife again and places where families can explore and discover the beauty of nature.

Trees for a Change is a service that lets you do good while giving gifts to people who matter in your life. We make it possible for you to pay to have a tree or a grove of trees planted in honor of a loved one, friend, customer or employee or in memory of a deceased person or pet. Their tree gifts cost less than the average bouquet of flowers, and they make a big difference for U.S. National Forest lands.

Here’s how it works:

  • You purchase the tree gift of your choice using their secure online checkout system.
  • They send out the gift to you or the recipient of your present.
  • A tree or a group of trees is planted in an area of a U.S. Forest that’s been damaged by fire.
  • Information about where the tree is located and photos of it are posted online.
  • The recipient of your gift can go online and learn about the tree. They can even use a map to find it and plan a trip to visit it!

In the age of simplicity, I think Trees for Change is a meaningful gift for both receiver and giver.  I certainly know I’ll be supporting this great mission with a tree to honor loved ones in my life.

Happy Earth Day!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.