Hope for living, loving, and caring with no regrets!

Leaning Into Love and Respite for Compassion Fatigue

Episode 138

Rayna Neises, ACC, host, reflects on her interview last week with Dr. Ed Smink (Episode 137).  Dr. Ed shared his personal experience with burnout and how important it is to be aware of compassion fatigue. Rayna continues the conversation with tips on how leaning into love and respite can help overcome this condition for family caregivers:

  • [1:06] Compassion fatigue is described as a condition characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion, leading to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others.
  • [6:27] What would happen if you wrapped him in a hug and told him you loved him?
  • [9:00] Leaning into love is one of the things you can do when you begin to focus on the task more than the person.
  • [11:40] Finding respite at home:
    • [11:47] Identify roadblocks.
    • [12:36] Ask for help.
    • [13:42] Brainstorm ideas.
    • [14:32] Do it!
  • [15:01] True compassion fatigue will take more than a little respite, but start small and explore what you can do to re-energize.
  • [15:45] This episode is brought to you by the Encouragement Series, a special gift coming in November.  Visit EncouragementSeries.com to sign up to learn more about this faith-based series that will offer you hope in this difficult season. 

This Episode was Sponsored by:

Encouragement Series


*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

[00:00:00] Dr. Edward Smink: All caregivers experience compassion fatigue. It’s not a mental illness it’s something we all experience and he says we all experience it because we care. And because we care we keep on caring and we get exhausted. It’s something we love to do but we don’t take care of ourselves enough and we develop compassion fatigue

[00:00:24] Rayna Neises: That was Dr. Ed Smink, our guest on episode 137, where he shared about his personal experience with burnout and how important it is to be aware of compassion fatigue. Hi, this is Rayna Neises as your host with A Season of Caring Podcast where there’s hope for a living, loving and caring, with no regrets, and I apologize for my voice this week. It is what it is. I feel better than I sound, but at this point I just wanted to on through and be able to share some things with you today. So if you can listen. I’m glad you’re here. So, compassion fatigue. [00:01:00] I think this is one of the concepts that most caregivers just never even consider. 

[00:01:06] Rayna Neises: The definition of compassion fatigue is described as a condition characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion, leading to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others. Sometimes described as negative cost of caring or referred to as secondary traumatic stress.

[00:01:24] So as a family caregiver, I think many times we never really think about when we might be experiencing compassion fatigue. We definitely are going to, when you think about that definition, emotional and physical exhaustion leading to diminished ability to empathize and feel compassion. When I think about this definition, I think about this specific situation I want to share with you. 

[00:01:52] I was standing in the doorway one more time, asking my dad to take off his pants. [00:02:00] Every night we had this routine he would go into the bathroom. It was nighttime, he was ready for bed. He would tell me he was ready for bed, but then he wouldn’t follow through. Now, that’s not true. It wasn’t every nigh but it was one night out of the three, I put my dad to bed three nights a week, and it seemed like there was one night of those three that it just didn’t go well.

[00:02:26] And I found myself standing in the doorway asking him over and over again, Can you just take off your pants? Such a funny request, but so important. Dad was in incontinent at night and we needed to get the special nighttime brief on. Not to mention if it was wet, it wasn’t gonna absorb anything. I mean, we’re going through a couple of pads every night and trying to make sure that he was in his jammies, that we would throw into the laundry with the vinegar, to really get them clean and all of those [00:03:00] things.

[00:03:00] So getting him changed and ready for bed. was something that needed to be done, and obviously every night it needed to be done. And it was so funny because some nights it was so easy. Hey dad, can you take off your pants? Sure. He’d take them off ,some nights it just didn’t work that way. He had a small bathroom right off of his bedroom, and I could just literally stand in the doorway, and that’s what I learned to do, was just stand there and wait until we could accomplish the task that needed to be done.

[00:03:31] I knew if he got back into the bedroom, he’d probably end up in bed and there was no way I was getting him out of bed and there was no way he was gonna let me change his pants while he was in bed. So he wanted to do it himself. But with Alzheimer’s, that ability to problem solve, process and start tasks is one of the biggest challenges that they face. And so being able to get him started also was challenging because when he was [00:04:00] confused like that, he didn’t know what I was trying to do. So there would be times that we’d get the belt unbuckled. My dad wore Levi jeans with a belt every day. Until later in the disease when we got to a point that we only wore pull up pants.

[00:04:13] But honestly, most of the time that I was caring for him, he had those Levis on with a belt and we’d get that belt unbuckled and we’d start to unbutton the pants and he’d be like, Oh. And he would suddenly button it back up and put the belt back on and it was done. . And so I learned as the time went by, if I just stand quietly in the doorway, maybe not make any eye contact, just give him a little bit of time and try again. Hey, dad, can you take off your pants? Sure. He would say, sometimes he would just turn away and do something else. There were times he cleaned the shower, turn on the water in the sink and mess around a little bit, but it just wasn’t happen. And it became [00:05:00] so frustrating. It was so hard because I felt like as the evening went along, I began to dread, Is this gonna be one of those nights?

[00:05:08] Is this gonna be one of those times that I can’t get him to change? I literally found myself standing in the doorway for over an hour at times, just trying to give him space, trying to give him time, come back and try again.

[00:05:23] I came home from one weekend just tired, emotionally exhausted., the definition of compassion fatigue . I had learned not to push him, but there were times when I did and didn’t realize I was, and that’s when he would get angry and cuss at me or hit at me.

[00:05:43] Like I said, it wasn’t the norm at all, and it certainly wasn’t my dad, but that frustration. It just really came out in the evening. I think both of us, our patience was gone and we were tired, and so he just wasn’t processing as well. And so I’d find [00:06:00] myself in that place again. It had been a rough Saturday night. I had driven home on Sunday and my husband asked me how I was doing, and I was like, Ugh. It was hard. I just don’t know what else to do. The first two nights he just got ready for bed. It was no big deal, but last night was just this big, long standoff and it turned into ugly words and it just hurts. It’s hard to hear, and I know he doesn’t mean it, but man, it’s just getting hard.

[00:06:27] And he said, I’m sorry. And he said, Well, what would happen if you just wrapped him in a hug and told him you loved? I was like, For real? You haven’t done this. You have no idea what you’re talking about. I said, What would happen is he would hit me and my husband was just like, Oh, okay. And so that was into the conversation.

[00:06:47] Of course, you know how it goes. We mold those things over in our mind. And the next weekend as I was standing in the doorway, asking my dad to take off his pants and or having that night, My husband’s words [00:07:00] came to my mind, What would happen if you just wrapped him in a hug and told him that you left him?

[00:07:07] I thought, What do I have to lose? So I stepped in and I just wrapped my arms around him. He immediately stiffened up, you know, his hands balled up in a fist up near his chest, and I just held him and I talked really quietly into his ear and just said, Daddy, I love you. You’re okay. I love you. So I rubbed his back quietly and continued to just hold him and tell him I love him and I’m there to support him. I’m there to help. Everything is okay. Daddy, I love you. You are okay. I’m just here to help you. He relaxed into the hug, and eventually those arms went from being balled up at his chest to wrapping around me and hugging me back. As I continued to just hold him and tell him I loved him and I was here to support him, [00:08:00] I could just feel him relax into that.

[00:08:03] All the fear, all the frustration, all the confusion for both of us melted away in that moment. I held him for a while longer and continue to just tell him how much I loved him. Eventually I dropped my hands and he dropped his. I took a step back and he looked up into my face and he said, What do you need me to do?

[00:08:27] And I said, Daddy, I just need you to take off your pants.

[00:08:33] Such a funny thing to say and such a sweet, tender moment. But it was really what I needed. I just needed him to take off his pants so we could get his jammie pants on and get everything else done that needed to be done that night. When I think of that moment, I think of how I moved from compassion fatigue to leaning into love, [00:09:00] and as a family caregiver, I think leaning into love is one of the things that we can always do to help us when we’re feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, and we’re beginning to focus on the task more than the person. 

[00:09:18] You are doing this because you love them. You are caring for them because you want everything for them, and I know that. And they just need to be reminded of that sometimes. Even if your loved one doesn’t have Alzheimer’s or diminished capacity, there are times that they’re trapped in their own pain. They’re trapped in their own frustration of what’s happening to their body and they can’t control. So always remembering to join them in love can change that. Now, do we need more than [00:10:00] just that moment of clarity, that moment of taking the time to remind them that we’re here to help and to remind them that we’re here to take care of them and to offer them what they need? Definitely. But in the moment I found that can make the biggest difference for me.

[00:10:21] Was just leaning into the love for that person right there in that moment. Taking the deep breath, getting focused back on them and what they need, and really thinking through how can I help meet their need?

[00:10:37] As a family caregiver, many times we find it very difficult to take respite. And respite is important. You’re gonna hear that over and over again. But being away, getting away and being able to really recharge. I know you need it and it’s important, but sometimes it feels like it’s impossible to do, and I think at [00:11:00] the same time, we have to stop and really think about what we can do and how we can find opportunities to get away in order to really get that complete refresh that we need, because in the moment we might be able to accomplish the task and it might go a lot easier than we thought it would. But I also wanna offer you some opportunities to take a small respite, a chance to rest and to recharge in the middle of your season. Not a big getaway, not a big ship your loved one off to somewhere else. But just an opportunity to find and to think about what might recharge you right here, right now. So finding respite at home, it’s challenging for sure, but I’d like to offer you some ideas. 

[00:11:47] The first thing I’d recommend is identify your roadblocks. What is it that’s getting in your way? What feels so impossible? What’s really stopping you from being able to take that respite or [00:12:00] get the rest that you need? Is it guilt? Do you feel guilty for needing the time away from your loved one? I hear that a lot from people that I’m talking to. I really think in normal circumstances, if your loved one wasn’t sick, you’d wanna get away too, right? So there’s nothing wrong with needing that space. Is it anger? Are you feeling like there’s no way for you to get away? Cuz nobody else cares and no one else is being a part of this journey with you? Sometimes just naming it can really help to bring some relief. So figure out what’s getting in the way of you getting the rest that you need, and kick it down, Find some help.

[00:12:36] Find someone who can help you. So the second step is to ask for help. Can you hand your responsibilities off to someone else, a neighbor, a friend of your loved one, just three hours? Go out for lunch. Take a nap when you know that they’re safe, can you ask a sibling to stop by and do puzzles or cook dinner with your parent or [00:13:00] your loved one?

[00:13:01] Is there someone in your church? Start looking for help. Paid help is great, but sometimes we just need someone right now. And really if we can look at our circle and broaden that circle a little bit, you might be surprised. Keep asking even if someone’s putting you off. Think of the people who have said if there’s anything I can do. Offer it up. Hey, this is what you could do. Come cook dinner with my loved one. Come do a little project with them. Sit with with them while they nap. It doesn’t matter. Just let me have some space. You will find someone to help. I know that you will. 

[00:13:42] The third step is brainstorm ideas. We’re all different make list of things that leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed and rested. Even when you’re not at home or when you are at home, what makes you laugh? What fills up your cup? What brings you joy? If you’re able to [00:14:00] leave home for a few hours, what can you do? Go to the beach. Go to the woods. Go to the park. Listen to nature. Find those things that you need. Can you enjoy a spa? Could you take a chance to go get a a pedicure? Are you a lifelong learner? Can you take a class? Can you go to the library? Whatever you do that brings you joy and helps you feel recharged, make that list. Find something that will fit in those few hours that you have and schedule it.

[00:14:32] That’s the last step. Do it. Whatever, however much time you can get off, get it on your calendar and do it. Make a plan for the time that you have. Even if it’s just a few hours, unplug, put that device away. Trust the person who’s caring, and then change up your space. Set a different mood, make it special. Figure out a way to be able to find that [00:15:00] recharge that you need.

[00:15:01] Kick fear to the curb and trust the person that you’re caring for and the one that you’re leaving them with. Try not to check in, especially if you’re only getting away for a couple of hours. True compassion fatigue will take more than just a little respite, but I would like to encourage you to start here. Start small, explore what you can do to re-energize yourself. Find your compassion and get back into doing what you do best, which is caring for your loved one. Thank you for joining me today. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode of A Season of Caring podcast. It’s been brought to you by The Encouragement Series, a special gift to you coming in November if you like to be on the list to learn more sign up@encouragementseries.com 

[00:15:50] Rayna Neises (2): Feeling exhausted and ready to quit? The Encouragement series is a faith-based series that will offer you hope in this really difficult time. I’m [00:16:00] bringing together six women who will share their strategies in different areas of their life from physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual, ways that they’ve found to really refresh themselves and bring hope even in this season. And just a reminder, A Season of Caring Podcast has been created for the encouragement of family caregivers if you have financial, legal, or medical questions, be sure to consult your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

*This transcript is a literal recount of the live recording, please forgive the grammatical errors




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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

An ICF Certified Coach, Author of No Regrets:  Hope for Your Caregiving Season, Podcaster, Positive Approach® to Care (PAC)Independent Certified Trainer & Speaker, offering encouragement, support, and resources to those who are in a Season of Caring for Aging Parents.

Her passion is for those caring and their parents, that they might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected.

Rayna Neises

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