The Dangers of Emotional Empathy for Caregivers

The Dangers of Emotional Empathy for Caregivers

Empathy is, obviously, an integral characteristic of effective caregiving. The ability to put yourself in another individual's shoes allows you to better meet their needs. However, there is a particular kind of empathy you need to understand as a caregiver in order to protect your own overall health: emotional empathy. The dangers of emotional empathy for caregivers are very real and may surprise you.

Emotional empathy takes caring to a different level. In place of simply understanding how someone else is feeling, emotional empathy involves actually experiencing their feelings. For example, if you’re somebody who is very 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’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 isn’t a bad thing. Yet for a family caregiver of an older loved one, it could 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 bring about emotional burnout, which in turn can cause you to shut down emotionally. If it is too painful to care so much, you may find yourself pulling away from your loved one.

If you think you’re dealing with heightened emotional empathy, these tips can certainly help: 

  • Speak with a mental health professional to help identify whether your reaction to your family member's condition is reason for concern.
  • Try to separate your personal feelings from those of the individual in your care. Your personal life experiences may 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 with 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 pieces of information they would like to share.
  • Think from a perspective of curiosity. Ask the person questions about their experience to better understand what they're feeling and thinking. At the same time, remind yourself not to make an effort to “fix” anything. 

Amy’s Helping Hands  is here to help you better look after yourself, so in turn you can better take care of the individual you love, through customized services such as:

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

Protect yourself from the dangers of emotional empathy for caregivers. Complete our online contact form or call us at 519-915-4370 to request an in-home consultation for more information about our home care in Windsor and Essex counties.