Caregivers Can Experience Mental Turmoil
> 6/19/2008 2:14:00 PM


In the business world stressed out employees can be a real problem for the bottom line as absenteeism can skyrocket and presenteeism can seriously damage productivity. But for the men and women who work as care providers to our returning war veterans, workplace stress can be damaging on an entirely different level. As the U.S. has been engaged abroad, the Department of Veteran's Affairs has been working to combat the problem of what they call "provider fatigue," but has also been termed Compassion Fatigue.

As the name implies, compassion fatigue can quite literally mean an inability to continue with the duties that providing care to wounded veterans entails. The problem can also be understood as secondary post-traumatic stress disorder because it presents in much the same way. Symptoms of compassion fatigue, similar to traditional post-traumatic stress disorder, can include nightmares, anxiety, invasive thoughts, and insomnia. At times persons afflicted with this disorder can fear returning to work, and can fail to complete imperative or even rudimentary tasks to a full degree.

Many times those serving in VA hospital ERs are on the front line of handling combat related PTSD and mental health problems. These doctors and nurses, who might not have thorough mental health training themselves, are being asked to absorb a tremendous amount of pain and suffering. Without proper training and support, this situation can lead one to begin shutting down emotionally.

The VA has implemented a program geared specifically to treat caregiver burnout. By helping these men and women recognize their own compassion fatigue and by giving them the tools to help address it, the VA improves the care and service to our veterans at every level. Better support for caregivers will help them perform their duties more effectively, and therefore better serve the veterans. It’s important to be cognizant of the effects that caregiver fatigue can have, and to be vigilant that the mental health needs of those providing these services are taken care of.

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