Compassion Fatigue in Adult Daughter Caregivers for Older Adults with Dementia
<bold>Background</bold>: Family caregivers for a parent with dementia often experience negative emotional consequences. These caregivers may also be at risk for compassion fatigue, a concept that was introduced to the health care community as feelings of anger, inefficacy, apathy, and depression resulting from a caregiver's inability to cope with devastating stress. Compassion fatigue was first observed in nurses and later in other caring professionals such as social workers and psychologists and the definition was adapted to focus on prolonged exposure to suffering as one of the primary causes.
Although compassion fatigue has not been studied in family caregivers providing care at home, their experiences, particularly those of adult daughter caregivers for parents with dementia, appear to create a foundation for developing compassion fatigue. For this reason, it was important to investigate compassion fatigue in this growing population of caregivers and this dissertation explored compassion fatigue in daughter caregivers for parents with dementia. The dissertation aims were to 1) identify common themes across the literature on compassion fatigue and to apply these themes and the existing model of compassion fatigue to informal caregivers for family members with dementia, 2) analyze secondary data from Project ASSIST to substantiate a need for further study of compassion fatigue in adult daughter caregivers of a parent with dementia, 3) explore the feasibility of studying compassion fatigue in family caregivers, and 4) explore compassion fatigue and the contributing factors and potential outcomes of compassion fatigue in adult daughter caregivers for parents with dementia.
<bold>Methods</bold>: The dissertation consisted of three studies. The first study, a review of the literature addressed aim 1 of the dissertation as I applied the established model of compassion fatigue to family caregivers. The second study, a secondary analysis pilot study addressed aim 2 and aim 3 of the dissertation study. The third study of the dissertation was a qualitative study exploring the concept of compassion fatigue in daughter caregivers for parents with dementia.
<bold>Conclusions</bold>: The literature review found evidence to support the components of the established model of compassion fatigue and findings suggested additional work was needed on the concept of compassion fatigue in family caregivers. Findings from the secondary analysis provided support for more in-depth exploration of the concept of compassion fatigue in family caregivers. Findings from the larger qualitative study provided support for many of the factors related to compassion fatigue, but also suggested revisions to the established model of compassion fatigue were needed. A revised model was created based upon the findings from this dissertation.
The revised model incorporates the contributing factors and moderators of compassion fatigue found in family caregivers and the model also proposes revised characteristics and outcomes of compassion fatigue. Findings from this dissertation also suggest new areas for research, specifically with all dementia caregivers and caregivers who do not utilize formal or informal support. Additional value from this dissertation derives from the detailed explanation of previous relationship quality, empathy, and caregiving experience. This dissertation is one of a few qualitative studies on compassion fatigue to provide this level of detail and serves to anchor future research on compassion fatigue in all family caregivers.
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