The family caregiver experience - examining the positive and negative aspects of compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue as caregiving outcomes

Aging Ment Health. 2018 Nov;22(11):1424-1431. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2017.1364344. Epub 2017 Aug 16.


Objectives: Caregiving results in both positive and negative outcomes for caregivers. The purpose of this study was to examine compassion fatigue and compassion satisfaction in family caregivers.

Methods: Using a cross sectional descriptive survey design with a convenience sample, 168 family caregivers of individuals with chronic illness completed a web-based survey. Measures included a demographic questionnaire, Caregiver Burden Interview, Brief COPE inventory and Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL).

Results: The majority of participants (71%) reported high levels of caregiver burden, moderate to low levels of the compassion fatigue concepts of burnout (59.5%) and secondary traumatic stress (STS) (50%), and moderate levels of compassion satisfaction (82.7%). Regression analyses showed that caregiver burden, time caregiving, coping, social support, and caregiving demands explained a total variance of 57.1%, F(11,119) = 14.398, p < .00 in burnout and a total variance of 56%, F(11, 119) = 13.64, p < .00 in STS. Specifically, behavioral disengagement is a predicator that may indicate early compassion fatigue.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that despite high caregiver burden and moderate compassion fatigue, family caregivers are able to provide care and find satisfaction in the role. This study supports the use of compassion fatigue and compassion satisfaction as alternative or additional outcomes to consider in future research.

Keywords: Compassion fatigue; caregiver burden; compassion satisfaction; family caregiver.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease / nursing*
  • Compassion Fatigue / psychology*
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Empathy*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Social Support*