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What is compassion fatigue, and how do you know if you have it? (with bonus resources)

By Joel Stoddart, Careforce Health Services

It seems as though every human experience has a ‘term’ now.  For example, did you know that ‘involuntary expression disorder’ is now used to describe times when someone has the urge to laugh at inappropriate times?

Some of these terms seem laughable. But there’s one fairly new term that is no laughing matter: compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue occurs when a person (often a caregiver) becomes gradually less able to react sympathetically to a person experiencing suffering or crisis. It occurs because the caregiver has been overexposed to the sympathetic situation and – to put it unscientifically – their compassion well has run dry.

The first – and most important – thing to remember is this: compassion fatigue does NOT, in ANY WAY, make you a bad person. It is is a perfectly normal thing for family caregivers to experience, and it strikes even the best and most considerate among us.

Here are some of the signs of compassion fatigue:

If you feel that your caregiving responsibilities are causing you to feel this way, please consider reaching out for help. In addition to consulting your physician, there are also a number of caregiver support groups in our area. Remember – you are not alone in your challenge.


Balancing Work, Childcare, and Eldercare: A view from the trenches: a major Canadian study, complete with conclusions and recommendations.

Caregiver Burnout Quiz: Are you heading for caregiver burnout? A short quiz to see whether you're at risk.

5 Tips for Making Family Caregiving Easier: practical tips and words of inspiration to either prevent or reduce caregiver fatigue.

Compassion Fatigue Fact Sheet (ALS Society of Canada): compassion fatigue 101 - the coles notes version.

Caregivers Nova Scotia: a support organization for non-paid family caregivers.

Caregiver Support Groups in the Annapolis Valley and surrounding areas: for those looking for peer support.


At Careforce, we work hard to earn your business. Here are just a few of the many reasons to choose Careforce.

1. We are person focused, not task focused. Our caregivers aren't just concerned about getting tasks done (although they're great at that too); they care about making you feel special.

2. All of our caregivers are supervised by a Nurse; you can be sure you are in good hands with Careforce's caregivers, who are also carefully screened and well trained. Having a Nurse on your side gives you extra confidence and peace of mind.

3. A small, consistent team of caregivers focused on your needs; while some home care agencies send a different caregiver to their clients each day, Careforce understands that you want consistency. You can expect to work with a small, devoted team of caregivers that will get to know your needs and deliver consistent results.

4. We are responsive. If you choose Careforce, you will have a caregiver who is right for you in your home quickly (usually within 48 hours or sooner).

5. No long-term contracts, ever. Careforce believes you should never have to pay for care you don't need. If you ever wish to cancel or postpone service, all you have to do is say so.

6. We are local. We care about our community because we all live here, too. You can always speak with somebody local - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - when you call Careforce. No automated phone commands! We have offices in Kentville and Kingston to serve you.

7. Our workers are also owners. Because many of our caregivers also own the company, they are more heavily invested in providing you with a perfect experience.

8. We offer the most flexible shifts in the Annapolis Valley. You need care when YOU need it, not when it's convenient for your caregiver.

We’ve helped hundreds of Valley residents with our expertise, compassion and personalized care and we’d be pleased to help you.

Give us a call. We’d like to help.

For your FREE in-home consultation call 1-866-966-1466.