If left untreated, compassion fatigue can overpower caregivers and cause burnout. Here is a Massachusetts minister who is helping those who comfort others, learn to comfort and take care of themselves.
WESTWOOD - The Rev. Eliza Blanchard asked the dozen women seated in a circle on the floor what symptoms they had experienced because of “compassion fatigue.’’ The women, all caregivers for the sick or dying, listed their teeth-grinding, neck pain, rapid heartbeat, insomnia. One woman said, “Sometimes, I forget to breathe.’’
The others nodded in agreement, and Blanchard added a few more. “You have trouble getting up in the morning. The tank is empty. You don’t care about things you used to care about.’’
As they sat on pillows and blankets, she led them through breathing and yoga exercises. They were in the meditation room of The Center at Westwoods, a nonprofit holistic and spiritual center on 70 pastoral acres in Westwood.
The women’s patients are chronically or terminally ill animals, some of them paralyzed, some elderly, some young. These caregivers are veterinarians, vet technicians, vet tech students, and a pet owner or two.