Being a caregiver—whether for a family member or in a paid professional role—requires many different skills. There are courses and certifications in caregiving available so that people can show up prepared for helping with different needs. However, one of the most desirable qualities in caregiving is compassion and it’s debatable if that can actually be taught—and more importantly, learned.
What Is It?
Compassion is one of those words that gets thrown around, and possibly misused but certainly you know it when you feel it—or not. According to Dictionary.com compassions is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
What is truly best is compassionate kindness. To be kind is to be “of a good or benevolent nature or disposition” and “indulgent, considerate, or helpful; humane.”
Can You Learn to Be Compassionate?
The short answer is yes, adults can learn to be more compassionate. A study published in Psychological Science showed that adults could learn compassion. “In healthy adults, we found that compassion training increased altruistic redistribution of funds to a victim encountered outside of the training context,” study authors noted. “These results suggest that compassion can be cultivated with training and that greater altruistic behavior may emerge from increased engagement of neural systems implicated in understanding the suffering of other people.”
The study involved people doing online training, which included games, for 30 minutes a day for two weeks.
Training on the Homewatch CareGivers University includes an awareness in person-centered care and highlights the fact that those who choose to work as caregivers should know “this is an occupation that requires a deep reservoir of compassion and a genuine desire to make people comfortable and happy.”
Quality relationships—whether between family members, a client and their caregiver, or others—have deep, meaningful connections, which are based in compassion. When it comes to caring for another person who can no longer do everything independently, compassion may be one more skill to be learned and applied to the situation for the best possible outcome.