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Caring for Senior Parents: Managing Emotional Empathy and Avoiding Burnout

caring for senior parents
Balancing emotional empathy while caring for senior parents is essential for providing the best care possible and avoiding burnout.

Empathy is, naturally, an integral characteristic of caring for senior parents. The ability to put yourself in another individual’s shoes means that you can better meet their needs. However, there is a particular kind of empathy you’ll want to understand as a caregiver in order to protect your own overall health: emotional empathy.

Emotional empathy takes caring to another level. Rather than simply understanding how another individual is feeling, emotional empathy includes actually experiencing their feelings. As an example, if you are highly emotionally empathetic, sitting beside someone who is crying will bring tears to your own eyes. If they are in pain, you will experience distress. You’re the kind of individual who will spring into action when someone has a sudden need.

Is Emotional Empathy Harmful for Caregivers?

Emotional empathy in and of itself is not a negative thing. Yet for a family caregiver of an older loved one, it can lead to mental health problems if not properly managed. The potential risks are increased if the person in your care has Alzheimer’s or other cognitive problems.

An excessive amount of emotional empathy can be extremely draining and overwhelming. It could lead to caregiver burnout, which in turn may cause you to shut down emotionally. If it is too painful to care so much, you might find yourself pulling away from your family member.

If you think you are experiencing heightened emotional empathy, these tips can help:

  • Speak to a therapist to see if 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 personal life experiences might be coloring how you are responding to the other person’s situation.
  • Devote more time to listening than formulating your own response when your loved one is talking to 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 would like to share.
  • Think from a perspective of curiosity. Ask the individual questions regarding their experience to better understand what they’re feeling and thinking. In the process, remind yourself not to try to “fix” anything.

Home Sweet Home In-Home Care is here to help you better look after yourself, so in turn you can better take care of the person you love, through personalized services which can include:

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

Call us to request a complimentary in-home consultation for more information on home care services to help both you and someone you love. You can reach our southwest Michigan team at (866) 229-2505.

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