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Understanding Caregiver Burnout & Compassion Fatigue

As human beings, we all have our breaking points. We are not super-human; this includes family members and healthcare workers. We all get tired and can get sick. We all experience sadness; feel scared, frustrated, vulnerable and lonely.

Wanting rest, sleep, time for ourselves and a timeout once in a while from everyone and everything, including caring for someone living with symptoms of dementia, are normal and needed in order for us to effectively function each day.

What is Caregiver Burnout & Compassion Fatigue?

Caregiver burnout takes place when a person is no longer able to produce the desired effects as a caregiver and instead feels overwhelmed.  Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling tired/exhausted
  • Lacking sleep
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling isolated from social contacts
  • Unable to attend to one’s own physical, mental, emotional needs

Compassion fatigue is a gradual lessening of compassion over time for the person you are caring for.  The two often go hand in hand.

Burnout & Compassion Fatigue in Dementia Care

 Caregivers to people with a progressive type of dementia such as Alzheimer ’s disease, the most common form of dementia, must be prepared for a caregiving journey that can last for many years.  On the dementia journey, caregivers are faced with witnessing not only the person’s cognitive and personality changes, but also physical decline as well.

A lack of support, respite and understanding on ways to provide ideal care and address behavioural changes in dementia care, can all contribute to burnout.  Sadly, the impact of the pandemic over the past couple of years has contributed to the increased risk of burnout for many family caregivers.

Combatting Burnout & Compassion Fatigue

Burnout and compassion fatigue is real and it can affect anyone. Without timely support and willingness to access support strategies and systems, compassion fatigue can negatively impact a caregiver’s physical and psychological well-being. Something we don’t want to see happen to anyone.

Three of the most common and effective ways to help prevent and minimize the effect of burnout and compassion fatigue is through:

  1. Obtaining ongoing education. Knowledge is power. For example, learning all you can about dementia and ways to cope as well as ways to best communicate and support the person you are caring for.
  2. Receiving ongoing support. This includes receiving regular respite/breaks for all caregivers or perhaps finding a more supportive environment for the person to live. We feel strongly that no one should journey alone.
  3. Attending support groups. Support groups provide a safe space where people with shared experiences feel they are not alone and learn from one another.

The caregiving journey is never an easy one.  While caregivers are often super awesome people…they are not super-human. With the right mix of support and openness to learn and reach out for help when needed, caregivers have the ability to reduce their risk of feeling burnt out and guilty for not providing the compassionate care that people living with symptoms of dementia require.  Know that you can reach out to us anytime as we would be happy to support you on your journey.


Karen Tyrell CPCA, CDCP is a Dementia Consultant, Educator, Author & Advocate, and Founder of Personalized Dementia Solutions Inc. ( Karen offers her expertise on dementia care through speaking engagements, workshops, support groups and by working one-on-one with families and caregivers to provide emotional support and practical solutions.  She was also on the design team for The Village Langley and provides ongoing education to the Village team, families and the community.



The contents of this blog are provided for information purposes only. They are not intended to replace clinical diagnosis or medical advice from a health professional. For any health-related issue, always seek medical advice first from a trained medical professional.