Jun 24, 2012

The Level Below How Empathy Applies in the Caregiving Model

What is your opinion?

By Carole B. Larkin
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Bob wrote a thought provoking article this morning on empathy and compassion, and how they are key components of a more positive caregiving experience. I agree 100% with Bob’s thoughts and conclusions, but would like to start a discussion about a question that needs to be asked before a person becomes a caregiver.

The question is, am I the right person to be the “One”?

If you think about empathy and compassion as if they were the foundation of a building, and desire for knowledge about the disease and how to best caregive the person with the disease as the structure of the building (columns and beams) and the persistence, patience and love of the caregivers as the walls and ceilings of the building, would not the entire building fall if the foundation was not deep enough to carry the weight of the building?

I put this to you for thought and discussion. I maintain that both empathy and compassion are inherent personality traits in human beings. That means, except for some isolated instances, you as a person either have those traits or you don’t.

I am not putting any judgment of good or bad, right or wrong into the statement that you either have the traits or not, just stating facts. It also means, except for some isolated instances, that you cannot learn empathy and compassion; it either exists within you or not.

If you are with me so far, then follow that train of thought a little bit further.

In deciding to be the “one”, especially in circumstances where there are others (professional or not, family or not) available, would it not be beneficial to the vulnerable person, for you first to look at yourself honestly and ask, “Do I have the empathy and compassion to undertake this endeavor"?

Is there someone or something (professional caregiving or residences) that has more of a foundation than I? Would “X” be better off being cared for by others?

Would I actually be helping the person more by not being the “One” if I honestly feel that my personality traits are not the most appropriate for caring for someone with dementia?

If in fact you honestly feel you do not have enough of those traits, then are you not in a different way showing that you do care for them by looking at other options (other family members or other communities) for them?

One of the reasons I put forth this question is that during my 8 years of care management, there have been a few instances where the person with dementia had a far better quality of life when the current caregiver gave day to day care over to another family member or to a memory care or other type of community.

What do you think? Please use the comments box below this article to share your thoughts, opinions, and observations.

Carole Larkin MA,CMC,CAEd,QDCS,EICS,
is a Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Original content Carole Larkin, the Alzheimer's Reading Room