Empathy is, obviously, an integral characteristic of effective caregiving. The ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes helps you to better meet their needs. However, there is one particular kind of empathy you need to understand as a family caregiver in order to guard your own health and wellness: emotional empathy.
Emotional empathy takes caring to a different level. Rather than merely understanding how someone else is feeling, emotional empathy includes actually experiencing their feelings. For instance, if you’re somebody who is highly emotionally empathetic, sitting beside somebody who is crying will bring tears to your own eyes. If they’re in pain, you will feel distress. You’re the kind of individual who will spring into action when someone has an immediate need.
Is There a Link Between Emotional Empathy and Caregiver Health?
Emotional empathy in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. Yet for a family caregiver of an older loved one, it may result in mental health problems if not carefully managed. The potential risks are even greater if the person in your care has dementia or other cognitive problems.
An excessive amount of emotional empathy can be hugely overwhelming and draining. It can bring about emotional burnout, which often can cause one to shut down emotionally. If it’s too painful to care so much, you might find yourself pulling from your loved one.
If you believe you are dealing with heightened emotional empathy, these strategies can certainly help:
- Talk with a therapist in order to help identify whether your response to your family member’s condition is reason for concern.
- Attempt to separate your personal feelings from those of the individual in your care. Your individual life experiences may be coloring how you’re responding to the other person’s situation.
- Spend more time listening than formulating your own response when your family member is talking with you. This means shutting out your own thoughts so you can focus exclusively on what they are saying. It can help you avoid making assumptions or missing important bits of information they want to share.
- Think from a perspective of curiosity. Ask the senior questions regarding their experience to better understand what they’re feeling and thinking. In addition, remind yourself not to attempt to “fix” anything.
Serenity Home Care, serving Victoria, Saanich, Esquimalt, and the surrounding areas, is here to help you better look after yourself, so in turn you can better take care of the person you love, through personalized home care services such as:
- Transportation and accompaniment to appointments and fun outings
- Companionship for conversations and enjoyable activities
- Light housekeeping, laundry, and meal prep
- Grocery shopping as well as other errands
- Assistance with personal hygiene needs such as baths, showers, and getting dressed
- And much more