Nursing Publications


Compassion fatigue within double duty caregiving: nurse-daughters caring for elderly parents.

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Online journal of issues in nursing [electronic resource]





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This article examines compassion fatigue within double duty caregiving, defined here as the provision of care to elderly relatives by practicing nurses. Using qualitative data from our two studies of Canadian double duty caregivers, we identified and interviewed 20 female registered nurses whom we described as "living on the edge." The themes of context, characteristics, and consequences emerged from the findings. In this article, we argue that being both a nurse and a daughter leads to the blurring of boundaries between professional and personal care work, which ultimately predisposed these caregivers to compassion fatigue. We found that the context of double duty caregiving, specifically the lack of personal and professional resources along with increasing familial care expectations, shaped the development of compassion fatigue. Nurse-daughters caring for elderly parents under intense and prolonged conditions exhibited certain characteristics, such as being preoccupied and absorbed with their parents' health needs. The continual negotiation between professional and personal care work, and subsequent erosion of those boundaries, led to adverse health consequences experienced by the nurse-daughters. The study findings point to the need to move beyond the individualistic conceptualization and medical treatment of compassion fatigue to one that recognizes the inherent socio-economic and political contextual factors associated with compassion fatigue. Advocating for practice and policy changes at the societal level is needed to decrease compassion fatigue amongst double duty caregivers. In this article we review the compassion fatigue literature, report our most recent study methods and findings, and discuss our conclusions.

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