Empathy is, naturally, a vital characteristic of effective caregiving. The ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes allows you to better meet their needs. But there is one particular type of empathy you’ll want to understand and how it can be harmful to a caregiver’s health: emotional empathy.
Emotional empathy takes caring to another level. Instead of simply understanding how another person is feeling, emotional empathy involves actually experiencing their feelings. For instance, if you are somebody who is highly emotionally empathetic, sitting beside an individual who is crying will bring tears to your own eyes. If they’re in pain, you’ll also experience distress. You are the type of person who will spring into action when someone has a sudden need.
How Is Emotional Empathy Harmful to a Caregiver’s Health?
Emotional empathy in and of itself isn’t a negative thing. Yet for a family caregiver of an older loved one, it may result in mental health problems if not carefully managed. The risks are even greater if the person in your care has Alzheimer’s or other cognitive problems.
Too much emotional empathy can be extremely overwhelming and draining. It can lead to emotional burnout, which in turn may cause you to shut down emotionally. If it is too agonizing to care so much, you will probably find yourself pulling away from your loved one.
If you think you are experiencing heightened emotional empathy, these tips will help:
- Speak with a therapist in order to help identify whether your response to your family member’s condition is reason for concern.
- Try to separate your own feelings from those of the person in your care. Your individual life experiences might be coloring how you are responding to the other person’s situation.
- Spend more time listening than formulating your own response when your family member is speaking to you. This means shutting out your own thoughts so you can concentrate solely on what they are saying. It can help you avoid making assumptions or missing important pieces of information they want to share.
- Think from a perspective of curiosity. Ask the person questions regarding their experience to better understand what they’re thinking and feeling. At the same time, remind yourself not to try to “fix” anything.
- Light housekeeping, laundry, and meal prep
- Grocery shopping along with other errands
- Transportation and accompaniment to appointments and fun outings
- Assistance with personal hygiene needs like baths, showers, and getting dressed
- Companionship for conversations and entertaining activities
- And many others
Contact us at (949) 859-4700 to request a free in-home consultation to learn more about how home care services in Anaheim, Irvine, Newport Beach, and nearby areas can help both you and someone you love.