Empathy Has Its Limits


There’s so much written about having empathy, the role of empathy, and developing empathy.  What I don’t often see written about are the limits of empathy.

What happens when you have no frame of reference for what it might be like from the shoes or perspective of the other?  What view do you default to – perhaps assuming that something you have experienced is close enough to know what it might be like for someone else?

Today,  I’d simply like to give a shout out to caregivers. You are amazing in more ways that I can describe. Your dedication, constitution, commitment, heart, willingness, tolerance, stress management, sense of humor, hard work, organization skills, juggling abilities, acceptance of lack of control, empathy, adaptability, focus, and team spirit…to name a few.

I have known this for most of my career in and around healthcare. Yet, I have never really known this until recently when I walked in your shoes versus empathically imagining walking in your shoes.

For years, I was a someone who would stand at the front of the room outlining all the things caregivers need to do, should do, and can make time to do, to take care of yourself and keep your brain healthy and your life in balance.   I’m a bit amazed that no one stood up and told me I was full of it.   While all the things I said are true and important, and I stand by them today, I found the doing them is far far far from easy.

I’ve spent a total of 2+ months of the last 8 months doing direct hands-on living in-home care to support a myriad of variables in context to aging, Alzheimer’s, decision-making, navigating surgery recovery, medical appointment, insurance negotiations, and attempting to maintain the business and quality of life.  When it came to walking the talk, I’d give my self a C, on a good day.

Some days were shiny and bright and I got in a little exercise, avoided the ice cream, stayed connected to my friends, could stay light hearted, and could focus on my work.  The other days were pretty dicey.  And after several of them I found myself on that slippery slope of sleep deprivation, crappy eating, no exercise, no quiet time, and admittedly inadequate mood management.

My eyes are open. The empathy switch is turned on and better tuned in.

With all my heart, thank you for all you do!


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