“How to Stay Empathic without Suffering So Much” (Greater Good Science Center)

Someone in our local support group shared this with me as it resonates with her as a caregiver.  Though the article gives examples with students or children, the group member says the article has helped her have a better balance in feeling empathy towards her husband with a neurological disorder.

The article suggests four strategies for staying empathic without suffering or feeling distress:

1. Check in with yourself
2. Question your thoughts and feelings
3. Practice verbalizing your feelings
4. Nurture a concerned, compassionate response

Here are two good excerpts:

* “There is a reason why we all keep using the oxygen mask analogy. It’s critical—not selfish—to check your own mask first (i.e., ‘Do I have what I need to move forward? Have I taken a deep breath and sensed my feet on the ground? Am I calm, composed, and able to respond thoughtfully?’). Otherwise, you may perpetuate feelings of distress and be unable to reach out with genuine empathic concern in the first place.”

* “By regularly questioning your thinking in a structured way, you can begin to shift your perspective, tone down distressful feelings, and ultimately respond more thoughtfully to” others.

Here’s a link to the article:


How to Stay Empathic without Suffering So Much
Four steps to a healthier, more helpful, and more sustainable form of empathy.
By Amy L. Eva
May 4, 2017
Greater Good Science Center

If you view the article online, you’ll find a link to an “empathy quiz” and other resources.

“Recommended New Books for Those Who Are Grieving” (WSJ)

This Wall Street Journal article from late April is a review of five books for those who are grieving:

1- “Resilient Grieving,” By Lucy Hone.

The WSJ article says:  “Her metaphor for life after loss is both powerful and apt: Think of it as a scattered jigsaw puzzle, where the pieces of one’s former life have been scattered and now must be reconfigured in a new way.”

2- “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy,” By Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

The WSJ article says:  “For all of its helpful advice, the book is a whirlwind journey that at times tries to do too much.”

3- “Guesswork: A Reckoning With Loss,” By Martha Cooley

4- “There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love,” By Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D., and Emily McDowell

The WSJ article says:  The authors “offer insights into those awkward times when friends and family freeze, not knowing what to say or how to help in times of loss. … Simply asking how things are going is often a good start.”

5- “On Living,” By Kerry Egan

The WSJ article says:  “The best antidote to suffering is the kindness of another human being, she writes. And one such kindness is to listen with empathy and attention as people relate the stories that gave their lives meaning, or struggle to reframe the regrets and pain that continue to unsettle them.”

Here’s a link to the full article:


Recommended New Books for Those Who Are Grieving
Sheryl Sandberg and other authors offer strategies on how to move forward after suffering a loss
By Diane Cole
Wall Street Journal
April 23, 2017 10:06 p.m. ET



“Spouses and Partners as Family Caregivers” – chapter 8 of “Caregiver Helpbook”

A course called “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” was developed by an organization in Portland.  You can read general info about the self-care education program for family caregivers at powerfultoolsforcaregivers.org.

As part of the course, class participants receive a copy of a book titled “The Caregiver Helpbook.”  Brain Support Network volunteer Denise Dagan is reading the book and will be sharing the highlights, chapter by chapter.  If you’d like far more detail that Denise’s summaries allow as well as access to the book’s terrific worksheets, note that the book is available for purchase in both English and Spanish at powerfultoolsforcaregivers.org.

The title of chapter eight is “Spouses and Partners as Family Caregivers.” This chapter focuses on the role of the well spouse/partner in caregiving.  The main issue for spouses/partners is that “the person with the chronic condition may become less and less ‘the person I fell in love with’ as the disease or chronic condition affects physical appearance, physical abilities, memory or thought processes, personality, and emotional responses.”

Here’s Denise’s short report on chapter eight.



Notes by Denise

The Caregiver Helpbook
Chapter Eight – Spouses and Partners as Family Caregivers

When one partner is significantly healthier than the other, he/she is referred to as the “well-spouse/partner.”  These couples may face unique challenges, such as:

* Experiencing the sudden shift in the relationship and intense grief that accompanies the awareness that the couple’s relationship as they have known it is gone forever.

* Unsettledness due to the emotional rollercoaster of difficult feelings such as anger, guilt, resentment, and loneliness.

* Dealing with feelings of intense sadness at the loss of shared hopes, dreams and activities.

“The person with the chronic condition may become less and less ‘the person I fell in love with’ as the disease or chronic condition affects physical appearance, physical abilities, memory or thought processes, personality, and emotional responses.  Consider:

* The changes in roles and routines that were in place for many years.
* Fear that care needs may become too great for the spouse/partner.
* Anxiety
* Financial concerns
* Loss of any or all of the intimacies that have been a part of the couple’s special relationship.”

When both caregiver and care receiver are very young there may be children or teenagers at home who are affected by care decisions. The well-spouse/partner may have parenting and employment responsibilities, or may be a caregiver for one or both parents/inlaws.  It may be useful to connect with a well spouse support group or seek individual or couples counseling for help in dealing with these complex and difficult challenges.

If you are a well-spouse/partner, ask yourself:
* Am I taking care of my own health needs – taking my medicine, keeping my medical appointments?
* Am I smoking or drinking more than before?
* Am I feeling isolated from friends?
* Have I given up activities I used to enjoy?
* Do I feel like I am ‘losing myself’?
* Do I need to ask for more or different kinds of help?
* Do I feel guilty for wanting to acknowledge my own needs and emotions?
* Am I increasingly irritable or angry?
* Am I having problems eating or sleeping?
* Am I experiencing increased anxiety of depression?
* Does my stress level feel overwhelming?

“Coping with Grief and Loss: Understanding the Grieving Process and Learning to Heal”

I recently discovered HelpGuide.org, a website that focuses on mental, emotional, and social health.  They have quite a few articles about caregiving, grief, and loss.

Here’s a link to their webpage from April 2017 on “Coping with Grief and Loss:  Understanding the Grieving Process and Learning to Heal”:


Synucleinopathy: How Long You Live Depends on Which One You Have

We posted earlier this week about the Mayo Rochester research into lifespan for Parkinson’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, and Multiple System Atrophy, as compared to those without these disorders.

This is a good Alzforum explanation of the same research:


Here are a few excerpts from the Alzforum article:

* “Prior studies have reported survival rates for various parkinsonian disorders; however, most of these recruited from hospitals rather than the general population, and none compared α-synucleinopathies side by side.”

* David Irwin, University of Pennsylvania wrote to Alzforum:  “The comparison of survival…highlights the powerful effect of cognitive impairment and dementia to predict a poor prognosis across the PDD/DLB spectrum.  Further, there is limited data on the natural history of MSA, and this paper provides new insight into the relatively rapid progression of this disease.”

* “[Mayo Rochester researcher] Savica said his group has submitted one autopsy study for publication, and will expand on pathology in an upcoming project.”