Is it possible to care less as a caregiver? - AgingCare.com

Is it possible to care less as a caregiver?

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I feel sometimes that I absorb so much of the distress from elderly parents on a daily basis. I do believe that there is a phenomenon of caring too much, and I wonder how I can find a way to care less or at least not be the sponge that absorbs every negative emotion. My sister has a much tougher exterior and can distance herself better. She'll say to me, "Just ignore him" when my dad calls every 15 minutes until I cave in and pick up the phone. My MIL lives with us and my dad lives across the country; both have dementia and are often in crisis mode over one thing or another. For MIL, she is convinced that someone is stealing her cigarettes from her room... and then the YELLING begins. For my hypochondriac dad, he thinks he's dying all the time. He has been saying that for the last 15 years! This puts me in a state of high alert, especially when everything represents a crisis situation for them. I've told MIL it hurts my ears when she screams on numerous occasions - but she doesn't remember. Their behavior is not rational. On one level, I totally get that their brains are broken and that they are suffering. But on another, I find it hard to develop strategies, or build a protective wall, to prevent their torments from impacting me so strongly. (I have done mindfulness training and breathing exercises; it helps but I still struggle with this.) I feel incredibly sorry for them, but I also feel sorry for myself - there seems to be an additive effect of being exposed to their complaints and misery constantly. I know in the media people talk about the desensitization of violence - I wish that I could become more desensitized to their behavior and the irrational things they say. I'm getting a bit better at this, but would appreciate any inspiration from folks on this forum. I have always thought my supreme empathy was a strong point for me, but it is not serving me well here. Do any of you have suggestions of how to reconcile the demands of caregiving with not being so invested in all the emotion involved?

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As an exhausted empath---I get it.

You feel all YOUR feels--and then absorb everyone else's too.

Think it would be "nice" to be more caring of the people around you? I don't know,. didn't ask for this "gift" and it's wearing me out. People tell me EVERYTHING!!!!

My sis, on the other hand, is wonderful and caring and appropriately in tune with life. BUT, she doesn't give a darn about 99% of the stuff in life. She simply....doesn't let it come in an bother her.

On the upside, I feel the "good" too. I have a terrible time in big group situations esp if it's people I love and know.

Currently rocky, as my brother no longer allows me to go into his home where mother lives. I have to call her ahead of time and have her meet me in the driveway (yes, this is so ridiculous)--and the stress and anxiety of this is so painful. DH says "Oh, let it go, you're making something out of nothing"...lack of support doesn't help at all.

Give the empaths in your life a hug today. We are chronically underfed in the emotional support arena!! I'm going to go find me a grandkid to snuggle today.
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Reply to Midkid58
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I think it's more about my nerves being frayed than feeling "enmeshed" with their feelings. I do not feel the same panic when my dad says he's dying. I understand that he is a hypochondriac. And it's the constant steady diet of negative emotion. For example, I have been up for barely 20 minutes, and I already hear loud yelling from my mother-in-law's bedroom... I was in the midst of preparing my morning coffee. Thankfully, I have no substance abuse addictions with the exception of chocolate and the occasional chocolate chip cookie. :)
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Reply to sorryselma
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Battina, you wanna hear something twisted? I am a total empath when it comes to animals. I just can't handle it. OMG it's brutal! But when it comes to ppl, not so much. Yep, I've got issues...lol
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Reply to Pepsee
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Pepsee you summed up the problem for empaths quite well: enmeshment.
My dad also thinks people are stealing from him, he does not have dementia.
He has NPD and paranoia is apparently one of the features of the disorder.

I remind myself that although he can sound very rational and normal, he slips
into 3 year old thinking without warning. If it happens when I'm tired or triggered
by whatever, I admit I sometimes don't handle it well and get emotional. Not good.

I guess we have to face that in many instances, we're the parent now, while our
parents are taking on the role of the child. And yet we still have to maintain our
respect for their dignity as adults. Tough balancing act.
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Reply to bettina
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I think Gershun said it all.
Will keep you in my prayers.
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Reply to smeshque
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Hi SS,
Did you know that the large majority of drug addicts and alcoholics are empaths? Yep, because they start out in life feeling what everyone else's feeling around them. It's emotional overload.

Empathy could be emotionally crippling if not recognized and managed. Do you see a therapist? If not, please do.

Something to work on in the meantime is, discovering where "someone ends and you begin."

Ex. Dad calls in a panic, thinks he's got a brain tumor.

Your stomach goes into a knot, and as you listen to him, you begin to panic....

stop......why are you now panicked?
You don't think you have a brain tumor. Right?

Your conscious mind will have you believe you're feeling FOR him. However you're feeling WITH him. Because you're feeling WHAT he's feeling..."panic". You're taking on his actual emotion.

("panic" is the result of fear.
It's a secondary emotion.)

You and him have " meshed".
This is Very unhealthy. Too much to handle. Empaths do it unknowingly.
Now to feel sympathy, for him, is perfectly normal. And an emotionally healthy response.

Ex. Dad is in panic mode again. It's so sad he has Hypochondria Disorder.

It's extremely difficult to stop an unhealthy behavior, if we don't consciously know we're doing it. We just know "something" is causing us pain.

Remain aware of your emotions. Feel sympathy for him, as his disorder distressed him. But do not jump into his disorder with him and "feel" what it's doing TO HIM.

This is what's meant by knowing where someone else stops and you begin.

DAD feels panic...... YOU feel sympathy

I hope this makes sense. Best of luck sweet lady!
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Reply to Pepsee
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sorryselma, as a fellow empath I'm not really the right person to be giving you advice. My Mom has passed but along the path of her decline and ultimately her death I was probably in a state of shock. Numbness is the best word to describe how I made it through that awful, sad, devastating time. To be honest, three years after her death and I still feel numb.

I think my faith in the Lord saw me through a lot of it and knowing my Mom's strong faith helped me as well. I think you wouldn't want to trade your empathy for coldness cause then you would have to deal with the fallout from that eventually too. I don't think non-empathetic people are lucky. I don't believe not caring is the answer. Those of us who feel things deeply suffer more because of it but are also stronger because of it too cause we get right there in the trenches and feel. People will tell you to compartmentalize. I got that one a lot. Me, personally, I'd rather just feel it and be done with it cause it's going to come back to you one way or the other. If you've felt the pain and shared your kindness, that will come back to you one day when you most need it. I truly believe this. So hang in there and continue to be strong for your loved ones. God Bless!
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Reply to Gershun
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I think that being an empath must make dealing with loved ones who have dementia extremely stressful. They are also, I would guess, more effective at getting into the loved one's irrational world.

So supreme empathy is probably a blessing and curse for caregivers. Would you agree, Sorry?

Mindfulness training and breathing exercises -- you are clearly doing the best you can to cope with this. I admire that!

I have no suggestions for you, but send my best wishes, and hope you can keep up the good work.
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Reply to jeannegibbs
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