AL caregivers often develop deep, emotional, and personal bonds with residents and are more likely than any other type of caregiver to develop that bond near the end of the resident’s life, when they are most physically or emotionally compromised. As an AL caregiver you enter into someone’s life, help them through what could be their worst moments, interact with family members, and possibly spend more time with them as they face their final days than anyone else. You become essential to the resident and often, you and the resident become friends.
For AL caregivers, death of the resident is part of the experience. And when a resident passes, though you know professionally your job with them is over, and it is time to move on, personally, you may be experiencing feelings of sadness and grief. Professional perfectionism dictates you do not express your sadness — because you are a professional. This dual professional-personal struggle can be part of life for the caregiver for older adults.
Many caregivers feel conflicted about their feelings for a resident vs their professional role. It’s important to recognize those complex feelings.
When caregivers do not believe they can express their feelings, they run the risk of experiencing compassion fatigue and burnout. Compassion fatigue, simply put, can be a high cost of caring.
So what do you do with your feelings of loss and sadness when you lose a resident? Where do you, as a caregiver, and not a family member, find comfort and support?
Communicating with others in a real way can decrease the negative impact of compassion fatigue. Talk to your supervisors, colleagues, friends, and family members about your feelings. Find or start a peer support group. There are many peer support groups for caregivers online.
Once you’ve addressed your feelings and expressed your sadness with someone you trust, you can more efficiently move through the grieving process, heal, and be ready to “move on” from that special resident.
SOURCE: Institute on Aging.
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