1. a state of extreme physical or mental fatigue.
  2. the action or state of using something up or of being used up completely
  3. drained of one’s physical or mental resources


For the past five days Brenda and I have had the privilege and joy of caring for our two young grandchildren, Ezra and Levi.  Ezra is two and a half and Levi is one.  We fed them, played with them, changed them, sang to them, “Burger Kinged” them, read books to them, built snow men with them, napped them, chased them, hugged them, dressed them, disciplined them, shopped with them, chased them, bathed them, went to the YMCA with them, watched Finding Dory with them, held baby lambs with them, played in forts with them, snacked them, sang with them, howled at the moon with them, and put them to bed.  Simply put we are exhausted.

According to the dictionary exhaustion is the action or state of being used up completely.  For five days we poured everything we had into Ezra and Levi so they felt loved, cared for, protected, and hopefully had a wonderful time with Nonny and Poppy.  At the end of the day we had very little left in our gas tanks.  We would quickly pick up the play room, finish cleaning up the kitchen, brush out teeth, watch an episode of Madam Secretary, and go to bed praying the boys would sleep through the night.

More than once we were reminded of the many times we felt exhausted caring for David.  Near the end of his life David required total support and care.  There were many days we would lay our heads on our pillows after a very long day to then hear David cry out over the monitor because he was afraid or in pain or needed help.  We would drag our weary bones out of the bed to change him, care for him, and often lay with him.  Because we loved David so much, we emptied ourselves to a place of “being used up completely.”  This of course went on much longer than a five day adventure with Nonny and Poppy.

One of the reasons Brenda and I started David’s Refuge was to remind Moms and Dads that it is vital to care for themselves.  After years of being a caregiver, of emptying yourself for your child and family, and of having very little left in your own personal gas tank, you are prone to mental, social, spiritual, marital, and physical breakdown.  If you have been one of our guests you will often hear our hosts use the illustration of the oxygen mask that drops down in an airplane if there is a sudden drop in air pressure.  The flight attendant instructs you to put the mask on yourself first and then to place one on your child.  One of the greatest acts of love we can give our children, disabled or not, is to make sure we are caring for ourselves.  The less we care for ourselves, the more exhausted we feel, the harder it is to love and care for our children in the way we want to.

So what do you do if you are in a place of compassion fatigue or caregiver burnout?

  1. Recognize the signs of caregiver burnout
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Bitterness toward friends or family who do not help “as much as they could”
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits
  • Decrease in energy
  • Decrease in experiencing pleasure
  • Feeling depressed, helpless, hopeless, or trapped
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Isolation from others
  • New feelings of incompetence and self-doubt
  • Over-reaction to small disturbances
  • Pervasive negative attitude
  • Procrastination (more than usual)
  • Profound exhaustion, tiredness (not relieved by sleep)
  • Taking out frustrations on others
  • Using food, drugs or alcohol to cope

2. Go see your doctor!  While you may be an expert on your child and their unique diagnosis, you are not your own personal medical physician.  They may be able to help you discover some ways to improve your health which in the long run will help you feel less exhausted.

3. Adopt healthy eating, exercise, and sleeping habits.  I know this is a lot easier to write in a blog than it is to actually make happen.  Here is a great recipe for Indian Style Spinach and Chickpeas: http://www.bonappetit.com/columns/cooking-without-recipes/article/indian-style-spinach-and-chickpeas

4. Sign up for David’s Refuge!  https://davidsrefnew.wpengine.com/be-our-guest/apply-here/

5. Keep a sense of humor.

6. Set boundaries.  It is OK to say NO!  In fact just say it right now for practice, “NO!!”

7. Choose to believe you are not alone, what you do matters, and God loves you!

Do you have any tips, techniques, or strategies you use when you are exhausted?  Please share them with us.

PS: Here is a picture of Nonny and the boys holding a two day old lamb.  We love our boys so much.  Now I am going to go take a nap!!!!!!!!!!!