Learning The Risks of Emotional Empathy in Family Caregiving

Empathy is, obviously, a crucial 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 type of empathy you need to understand as a caregiver in order to protect your own overall health: emotional empathy.

Emotional empathy takes caring to a different level. Instead of merely understanding how someone else is feeling, emotional empathy involves actually experiencing their feelings. For instance, if you are someone who is very emotionally empathetic, sitting beside somebody who is crying will bring tears to your own eyes. If they are in pain, you will experience distress. You’re the kind of person who will spring into action when someone has an immediate need.

Risks of Emotional Empathy in Caregiving

Emotional empathy in and of itself is not a bad thing. Yet for a family caregiver of an older loved one, it may bring about mental health problems if not carefully managed. The potential risks are greater if the person in your care has Alzheimer’s or other cognitive problems.

A lot of emotional empathy could be extremely draining and overwhelming. It can lead to emotional burnout, which often may cause one to shut down emotionally. If it’s too agonizing to care so much, you may find yourself pulling away from the aging loved one.

If you believe you’re experiencing heightened emotional empathy, these tips can help:

  • Talk with a therapist in order to help identify whether your response to your family member’s condition is cause for concern.
  • Try to separate your own personal feelings from those of the individual in your care. Your personal 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 to you. This means shutting out your own thoughts so you can concentrate solely on what they are saying. It can prevent you from making assumptions or missing important bits of information they would like to share.
  • Think from a perspective of curiosity. Ask the person questions regarding their experience to better understand what they’re feeling and thinking. At the same time, remind yourself not to attempt to “fix” anything.

Radiant Health Services is here to help you better care for yourself, so you can better take care of the individual you love in turn through customized services which can include:

  • Assistance with personal hygiene needs like baths, showers, and getting dressed
  • Transportation and accompaniment to appointments and fun outings
  • Grocery shopping along with other errands
  • Companionship for conversations and enjoyable activities
  • Light housekeeping, meal prep, and laundry
  • And many others

Complete our online contact form or call us at (240) 673-6377 to request a free in-home consultation for more information on how home care will help both you and someone you love.

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