Have you ever met that certain someone who goes above and beyond to make sure that you or your loved one feels safe, comfortable, and empowered?

Whether it is in health care, community support services, or education, we appreciate people who are energetic and enthusiastic about their job.  They are the ones who will continually approach a situation with a positive mindset and view no challenge as too great to tackle.  In their care, you feel welcomed, valued, and esteemed, and as a colleague, you know that you are respected and appreciated.

No matter what their role, it was people who were sincerely empathetic to our situation and who demonstrated an effort beyond what was expected of them, these were the people who truly made a difference in our lives.

The opposite of that is someone who may be distant or withdrawn and appear to have a lack of interest in you, or in his or her work, someone who is not willing to take action on your behalf.

Repeated involvement in the day-to-day caregiving of others can result in burnout and/or, compassion fatigue.  Charles Figley, a university professor in the fields of psychology, family studies and mental health states,

“We have not been directly exposed to the trauma scene, but we hear the story told with such intensity, or we hear similar stories so often, or we have the gift and curse of extreme empathy and we suffer.  We experience their fears.  We dream their dreams.  Eventually, we lost a certain spark of optimism, humor and hope.  We tire.  We aren’t sick, but we aren’t ourselves.”

Family members, members of the support team, and professionals in care giving roles are all vulnerable to burnout and compassion fatigue.

I remember a situation where a patient had expressed disappointment in what he described as “complacency in the health care team”.  In response, the patient advocate expressed that, “We are so used to these kinds of situations; they become routine and perhaps, mundane.  We forget that this is all new to a patient and it is important that we treat every situation as urgent and new.”

Caregivers, support providers and teachers play an important part in our lives, especially under extraordinary circumstances.  Here are a few tips for maintaining fervor and enthusiasm for what you do each and every day.

Treat every situation as new
While your work can become routine and predictable, it is a new situation to the person and to their family.  Think about this each time you communicate and connect.

Continue to learn
Keep learning.  If a workshop is offered to you, take the opportunity. Attend the lunch and learn. Go to the conference.  Share your ideas and successes with others; it’s energizing.

Rest your mind
Set aside some quiet time for yourself.  Meditation, exercise, crocheting, gardening, and snorkeling are examples of activities that give you a chance to clear your mind and focus on something pleasant and enjoyable.

Communicate your feelings
It’s something you have heard over and over again, however it is one of the best ways to work through negative feelings.  Share your thoughts with others.  You will feel supported and strengthened.

Don’t take yourself too seriously
As a caregiver, it is easy to become self-important and think the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Taking yourself too seriously can obstruct your ability to be supportive and empathetic.  Try to see the humour in each day, and laugh as much as you can.

~ Lisa