In Episode 3 of our Vodcast, we discuss Carer Fatigue.

Our General Manager Belinda Chelius and carer Marc Bryant talk in depth about this common and very real issue for Carers, Families and Loved Ones.

Download the accompanying e-page here.

Video production:

Carers, Families and Loved Ones Carer Fatigue

A ‘carer’ is anyone supporting an individual with an eating disorder. A parent, sibling, partner, best friend, grandparent, health professional, school counsellor, chaplain or other significant person.

Compassion fatigue can be defined as the gradual lessening of compassion over time. It can be caused by emotional and/ or physical toll placed on a carer as a result of caring for a loved one with an eating disorder (Hall, L. 2017). The prolonged exposure from listening and caring for a loved one living with an eating disorder can make a carer susceptible to compassion fatigue and is not always easily identifiable (Transitional Support, n.d).

What Leads to Carer Fatigue?

  • Long term support of someone living with an eating disorder
  • Inadequate support system and/or lack of connection with informed others
  • Insufficient resources, misinformation, or lack of understanding about the causes and
  • symptoms of your loved one’s eating disorder and the treatment plan for their care
  • Feeling overly responsible for every up and down in the process of your loved one’s recovery
  • Placing too high an expectation on what is possible for you in your role as a support person
  • Uncertainty about how to manage your emotions in general, but specifically in situations in which you might feel scared, overwhelmed, or have a lack of control
  • Lack of attention to basics of self-care such as rest, exercise, and proper nutrition
  • The ongoing fear, shame and self-blame cycle

Carer Fatigue Indicators

  • Having difficulty maintaining an empathetic perspective, or seeing your loved one as manipulative, uncaring, or selfish
  • Misattributing the eating disorder symptoms to something negative about your loved one’s behaviour, such as feeling like your loved one is “doing this on purpose” or “doing it to you” or
    “just wants attention”
  • Feeling perpetually tired, withdrawn, hopeless or having a desire to give up or give in to the eating disorder
  • Feeling angry and irritable and having difficult managing your own emotions
  • “The family unit or dynamic can be challenged and changed” – Marc Bryant (episode 3)

How to Reduce Carer Fatigue

Hope Hold hope that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Know that, your involvement as a carer, advocate, ally and supporter for your loved one is essential in supporting their recovery.

Compassion Try to be kind to yourself as you learn to navigate this difficult role better and better over time. Increase your support by seeking your own therapy or support group.

Acceptance Understanding and working towards acceptance does not mean that you have to like, want or agree with the situation. Acceptance is the process of accepting the reality of the situation. Ways to do this are to start to reduce your attachment to previous expectations, e.g. “what you thought your loved one would do.” When you face these realities directly, you reduce the struggle of wanting things to be different in this moment.

Celebrate Setting realistic expectations and celebrate even the small wins. Maybe your loved one was willing to try a challenge food, or able to use a set of skills. While these things might seem too small to celebrate, they are the building blocks towards recovery and should be recognised as such.

Reduce Perfectionistic Thinking Try to reduce the pressure for yourself to know how to handle every situation or have the right response. Recognise your own humanity and know that you are trying your best and will sometimes make mistakes.

Relationships Enjoy the relationship you have with your loved one. It is important to make time to connect with your loved one and nurture your relationship without the entire focus being on the eating disorder.

Get Involved Involvement in treatment and collaboration is important. Consider family therapy sessions and/or having more contact with your loved one’s therapist or treatment team. Carers, Families and Loved Ones – Supporting you to support your loved one,