Posted in Caregiving

Are Others Empathic Enough?

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

Years ago when I was doing trainings for healthcare/complimentary health providers it was important to understand their level of empathy.  It was clear that they had the knowledge to help their patients/clients, but could they really understand the other’s point of view?  I started thinking about this because we had a snow storm starting Tuesday evening and we got 24+ inches of snow.  I was prepared so there was plenty of food, but it meant that we’d be in the house for at least a couple of days.  Started wondering about cabin fever, and for those of you caring for someone who is sick or injured I’m sure this is something that creeps into your consciousness on a regular basis.

The trainings we provided to the healthcare community were called empathy trainings.  The goal was to create an environment where they would experience, on the smallest of scales, the challenges of those they were serving.  One example was to attach popsicle sticks to their fingers and then ask them to open a jar simulating someone with extreme arthritis.  Another example was to put vaseline on a pair of glasses to simulate cataracts and then have them try and get around.  Obviously it’s not the real thing, but they were able to begin the process of understanding.  Where does this fit in for caregivers?  We had them rotate through being called by the empathy participants to receive help in most would consider to be everyday tasks…not to easy.

I guess the truth is that anything can be a learning experience if you frame it that way.  Being homebound, not by choice, can create feelings of physical, emotional and spiritual claustrophobia.  In places where this type of weather takes away the phone and/or power lines it leaves you isolated.  All of these give rise to anxiety that many caregivers experience feelings trapped in their homes unless arrangements are made for an alternate caregiver. 

There’s no way to for others to go through an empathy training, but it would be nice.  Having others be able to walk a mile in your shoes would bring about different conversations and actions.  It would provide greater understanding for what goes on within you on a daily basis and encourages others to reach out more often.  Empathy is good because it evens the playing field and brings people to a deeper level of understanding.

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