Compassion fatigue is a reality that many nurses and aged care workers will face during their career. But it can also happen to unpaid carers in the community.

Caring for the elderly, whether they are a relative or a resident, can be very rewarding, but at the same time it can also be draining if a person is not resilient

Compassion fatigue is when a caregiver, aged worker, nurse, or other helper becomes extremely burned out after many months or years of being selfless and giving.

Compassion fatigue can also be described as a feeling of complete emotional and physical exhaustion, leading to feelings of despair and hopelessness.

It is by no means their fault, the fault of the facility or the residents. But this is something that people should be wary of, and know how to manage if they experience it themselves.

Compassion fatigue can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety, and if it is not dealt with properly the feelings can get worse.

The main way to combat compassion fatigue is to take better care of yourself and make yourself a priority.

Looking at Compassion Fatigue Numbers

When a person is struggling with their job or care duties, it’s easy to feel as though you are alone in your experience. But in reality, compassion fatigue happens to many people – even the most giving and caring people.

Safe Work Australia statistics suggests that that approximately one in five Australian workers is likely to be experiencing a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety at any given time.

This is estimated to cost Australian workplaces $10.9 billion per year in absenteeism, presenteeism and compensation claims.

Each year on average, 14.8 weeks of work is lost due to staff needing to take time off because of compassion fatigue.

The most common cause of mental stress is work pressure, with 32 per cent of mental a disorder claims being attributed to challenges at work.

This is understandable for nurses and carers who often find themselves spread very thinly over many residents and older people needing their care.

Alarmingly, 39 per cent of mental disorder claims are caused by harassment, bullying or exposure to violence in the workplace.

This is frequent in the health sector and aged care, in particular, where residents may lash out due to agitation and aggression or families who are frustrated by the service.

What Can Workplaces Do?

According to Heads Up there are things that managers and senior staff can to do help encourage healthy work environments for their workers;

  • Have an active commitment to mental health in the workplace
  • Make mental health of their staff an objective of the organisation or business
  • Integrating good health and safety management into all business decisions
  • Rewarding managers for maintaining a mentally healthy workplace
  • Developing their leadership and people management skills
  • Promoting a zero-tolerance approach to stigma and discrimination against people with mental health conditions
  • Providing flexible working conditions that promote employee mental health
  • Identifying and supporting internal ‘champions’ with the skills and influence to lead workplace mental health initiatives.

It’s impossible to complete wipe out compassion fatigue, the best that any person or organisation can do is to be open to help people when they are struggling with their duties.

Remember, you need to care for yourself in order to care for others.

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