Compassion is the core component and one special quality all caregivers must possess. Compassion is the foundation for being a good caregiver and necessary for a harmonious and trusting relationship between the caregiver and the patient.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, defines compassion as “the emotional response of another’s pain or suffering involving an authentic desire to help.”  What does compassion look like when someone is a caregiver? When someone has compassion for another, they have an empathetic understanding of what the other person is going through.

Empathy and compassion are closely related terms.  Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s place, to feel and understand another’s emotion. When combined with action, empathy becomes compassion. Caregivers who possess a desire to provide support and assistance to a loved one (or patient) will form a special bond or compassionate connection.

Why does compassion or a compassionate connection matter in caregiving? Because caregivers who are compassionate in their efforts to deliver care with honest and personal concerns for the health and wellbeing of a loved one or patient experience a true sense of satisfaction for their efforts.  Some other reasons compassion is an essential component in caregiving are:

  • Patients cared for by compassionate nurses are more likely to share problems and concerns. This assists medical professionals to identify and treat health issues early and leads to enhanced recovery.
  • Compassionate caregiving has been shown to reduce a patient’s anxiety and promote healing and recovery.
  • Facilities that employ compassionate healthcare workers use fewer resources and enjoy reduced healthcare costs.
  • Compassionate healthcare providers (including caregivers) are more resilient and less prone to burnout in difficult or challenging situations.

Creating compassionate connections can help improve patient health outcomes, promote trust, and help patients feel safe, whether they receive care in their own home or in a senior care setting. Patients want to feel valued and respected by their caregivers. Caregivers accomplish this by establishing caring, empathetic and patient-centered relationships.  Caregivers must always treat patients or loved ones with dignity and respect, listen with courtesy and an open mind and respond in the most basic general terms possible.  If the patient does not understand the response, then the information must be repeated with a tone that reflects dignity and respect.

All caregivers should possess or cultivate the quality of compassion. While some have the natural ability to be compassionate to those in their care, others need assistance and time to develop compassion. Fortunately, compassion can be learned, and compassionate connections can be developed.  Suggestions for how to cultivate a compassionate manner include:

  • Respond to your loved one’s or patient’s basic needs.
  • Perform caregiving tasks in a polite manner and with a respectful attitude.
  • Smile – it will help both the caregiver and person receiving care.
  • Maintain eye contact when you talk to the other person.
  • Keep the other person clean, comfortable, and address any concerns of pain and discomfort immediately.
  • Be prompt in responding to their requests for any assistance.
  • Maintain their personal dignity.
  • Check on them often, even if they are asleep.
  • Keep your promises. If you say you’ll come back later, do go back.
  • Talk to them slowly and loud enough for them to hear and comprehend.
  • Be patient. Don’t rush things. Just enjoy the time you share with them.
  • Hold their hand to provide them comfort and reassurance.
  • Learn all you can about them, value them as a person. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their life, their childhood or children. Connecting with them on a personal level is very important to assure you are providing good care.
  • Once you connect on a personal level, endeavor to maintain the relationship.  The person receiving care will appreciate the caregivers efforts and respond more positively if they feel a special connection.

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