Compassion Fatigue Strikes Family, Even Animal Caregivers

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Take Care of Self to Avoid Compassion Fatigue

She said caregivers have to learn to "let go" when their day is eventually done. "And try to find authentic sustainable health care practices every day to help build you back up."

For some it could be walking in nature, for others being near water. Go to a movie or have a date with your husband, she advises. Ask for help.

"Compassion fatigue empties you out and you never fill yourself up," she said.

As for Reggie Gooch, just days before his wife's death, as he was ready to collapse, his doctor of 23 years told him he needed the help of a full-time nurse. She carried the heavy load, and he was able to be by Millie's side when she died.

Today his health is good, despite an approaching 99th birthday. "I had a new hip a year ago and I don't use a cane in the house," he said. "I am very maneuverable and keep up the yard. Everyone says it looks beautiful."

"Life is getting back together again," he said. "Angela [his home aide] takes care of me and we go out to dinner and have some laughs."

Sometimes he feels guilty that Millie is not here to share his renewed vitality.

"I surely miss her, especially when I go to bed at night," said Gooch. "You can't live with someone for 76 years and not feel that. We were always love birds."

He doesn't regret caring for Millie until the end, although it nearly killed him.

"But that's part of life," he said. "We got married for better or worse. We always took care of one another."

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