How to be an Empathetic CaregiverCaregiving | April 2, 2015
The definition of empathy is: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
In other words, empathy means being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a while so you can imagine what it is they are going through.
When caring for the elderly, it’s important to have empathy as you assume your role as caregiver. Caring for our loved ones can be a rewarding experience, but it’s also possible to feel stress, anger and get easily worn out from your caregiving duties.
Empathetic Caregiving Tips
When we are empathetic caregivers, we have the ability to understand what the person we are caring for is dealing with. By trying to see life from their point of view, you’ll be able to better reflect on their thoughts and feelings. It’s easy to get frustrated when the person you are caring for is grumpy, argumentative or demanding, but take a step back when it gets overwhelming.
Imagine that you are the one who is sick or in pain all the time. Imagine that you have no privacy and have to rely on someone else to help you accomplish the simplest tasks, like sitting up in bed or eating a meal. Picture yourself unable to remember the names of objects you’ve used every day of your life, or not recognizing your own family members. Chances are, if you mentally put yourself in the same situation your loved one is in, you’ll be able to grasp why their mood or personality is the way it is.
The ability to have empathy is probably one of the most important (if not the most important overall) qualities in providing excellent caregiving to loved ones. Think about how you would like to be treated if you were dealing with the circumstances your loved one is in the midst of. Being able to empathize will lead to better caregiving and more compassion, as well as the ability to be patient and strong.
It’s more difficult to be kind and gentle when you can’t be an empathetic caregiver. For this reason, it’s also important to recognize that there’s no shame in asking for help from others when your caregiving job becomes simply too overwhelming. Taking a break every now and then whether through respite care services or enlisting the help of another family member or friend will allow you a chance to refresh so you can continue to be a compassionate caregiver.
By recognizing the feelings that are behind the behavior of your loved one, especially during difficult times, we can change our own reaction to their words or actions.
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