Open Accessibility Menu

Caregivers and Empathy

Woman and caregiverFamily caregivers spend an average of 20 hours per week caring for their loved ones. 13% of those provide 40 or more hours of care a week, according to a National Alliance for Caregiving report.

Being a caregiver is difficult. We all realize that, but can’t always identify with the loved one we are taking care of. Sometimes we get frustrated and think they’re being lazy or hard to get along with or combative. It’s difficult to “see” what they see or “feel” what they feel.

“I think I’m going to die”

I recently said that after weeks of an infection and an injured cornea. I had what’s been going around – this awful, long lasting cold/infection that gets into your sinuses, your chest and throat. I was constantly blowing my nose, coughing to the point of major headaches and felt weak all the time. 5 weeks in and I’m beginning to improve when somehow a piece of wood gets into my eye and now I can’t open it! When I open my eye for a second, it’s painful. My wife says it could be a corneal abrasion. I’m in pain to the point my mouth, face and head hurt – all originating from the eye pain. Have you ever had real tooth pain? It’s like that. It’s so small but so painful!

I was sitting on the couch complaining to my wife how much it hurts. I sit up to cough and blow my nose and realize I haven’t taken my antibiotic yet this morning to battle the infection. I can’t take it on an empty stomach so I need to eat something. I ask my wife if she could prepare me some breakfast so I can take my medication, since I can’t see. She’s had enough of my complaining, and with grunts, sighs, and eye rolls, she scrambles eggs and brings them to me with my meds and juice. She isn’t happy about it but she helps me the same.

For the first time, I saw life through the eyes of the care recipient. I had a small glimpse into the life of someone who is in pain, struggling with a condition and each minute of the day is consumed by that condition. You see life through the lens of managing your illness and pain, through the schedule of your meds and relying on someone else for almost everything.

I also saw how my loving wife had become frustrated, impatient and tired of caring for me even in the short few hours she was my caregiver. She’s a wonderful woman as other family caregivers are but it wears on you like a heavy coat.

Sympathy vs. Empathy

I’ve been in the Home Care industry for 5 years now, with a true heart for serving. I have seen the pain and struggle of the Care recipient and I’ve had sympathy for them but now I was crossing over into empathy. I’ve seen the emotional turmoil of the family caregivers and how very tiring that is physically and emotionally. I’ve seen very bad health conditions, long term medical struggles, weekly hospital readmissions and repeat rehab stays along with repetitive doctor visits so i see how real it is. Having been a caregiver myself, I have direct experience as one and can more have empathy for the caregiver.

For the first time, I can identify with the care recipient and finally feel true empathy. I experienced the closest I’ve ever been to actually FEELING what the care recipient AND the caregiver experiences.

Caregiving is not easy.

You’ve heard, read or experienced how hard it is to be a caregiver. You want to do it because you love the one you’re caring for because often, it’s your mother, father or spouse. You care about them and believe you are the most qualified and most logical choice to carry the load so you do. You do more because it’s needed; someone has to do it you say. Your other life responsibilities, including your health, are put on the back burner. Only when you look in the mirror one day to see the bags under your eyes and 10 extra pounds on your waist, do you recognize the heavy burden you’re under and finally realize you need help.

Help is found in different ways. Elicit the help of your siblings. Coordinate with your neighbors or church friends. Seek out your city’s local Caregiver resource website or search online for reputable Home Care agencies. If you research home care agencies, read their reviews before contacting them. There are specific questions to be asked and I’ll share that in an upcoming article.

40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with approximately a quarter to half of these caregivers meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression. The bottom line? Caregiving is hard and you can’t afford to go it alone. It’s unsustainable for any extended period of time and you must seek help. Just like on an airplane, you must first take care of yourself in order to be any good to those around you.

If you or an aging loved one are considering non-medical in-home care in Raleigh, NC, call Griswold Home Care and speak to one of our caring staff members today. Call (919) 229-8944