Often, people consciously or subconsciously reject the idea of becoming more compassionate. To many, compassion indicates weakness. There is a general assumption that compassionate people often get taken advantage of and spend most of their time completely exhausted from putting everyone else first. Good news is that research tells us a different story. It is true, compassionate people can easily be taken advantage of; but rather than being exhausted by their compassion, they are energized by it. Compassion has the power to positively transform your life as well as the lives of the people around you. And as it turns out, compassion may be the most important thing we need to improve the care we provide for our older population.


Compassion. When looking the the Latin roots, compassion literally means “to suffer with.” But really, compassion carries a much deeper meaning than to suffer with another person; compassion is the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another person’s suffering and you feel compelled to help.

When one cares with compassion they simultaneously…

  • Make people feel respected. When you care for someone with compassion, you make them feel like they are being treated like an individual person as opposed to another responsibility.
  • Allow them to recover more quickly. Studies have shown that those who are treated with compassion recover more quickly than those who are not.
  • Make people feel more comfortable. Needing assistance can be a sensitive topic for many seniors. Caregivers can put their care recipient at ease by being more compassionate.

When you care for someone, compassion is not only necessary for the person you are caring for to feel they are being well taken care of, but compassion is a vital component of the caregiver’s overall well-being.

Cultivating Compassion Increases Happiness

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

-Dalai Lama

Regardless of one’s spirituality, this quote bears a lot of truth. If you desire to add more happiness in your life, the simplest way to do it is to practice compassion.

It has been established that there is a direct correlation between compassionate people and those who report higher levels of overall happiness, and these benefits extend full circle.

People who receive compassion from others experience happiness, and happier people are more likely to commit more compassionate acts.

Compassion Enhances Resilience

Caregiving is one of our society’s most stressful jobs. Often the most taxing aspect of this job is the emotional toll. This alone requires caregivers to have a great deal of resilience. Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from stressful situations.

Training in compassion has been shown to make people more resilient – which is critical for caregivers. Compassion even has the ability to strengthen the immune system by lowering stress hormones. As a result, caregivers reduce the amount of time they spend worrying and focus more on the positive experiences in their job.

Compassion Can Reduce Feelings of Loneliness

A common challenge faced by many caregivers is loneliness. Research has shown that compassionate people tend to be more socially adept, thus making them less vulnerable to loneliness.

Self-compassion is known to enhance life-satisfaction, overall psychological and emotional well-being and mood. People who are self-compassionate may also be likely to have better social connections.

Improve Your Relationship

Caring with compassion can greatly enhance your relationship with the person you are caring for. This occurs for a variety of reasons.

  • Better communication. Communication is essential for enhancing any relationship. Studies have shown compassionate people are more optimistic and supportive when communicating with others.
  • More nurturing. Nurturing is a core component of a caregiving job. Brain scans have shown that when practicing compassion, their brains activate neural systems known to support parental nurturance as well as other caregiving behaviors.
  • Easily find commonalities. Finding common ground is a great way to improve your relationship with the person you are caring for. When you are compassionate towards another person, you have an easier time finding common ground. Conversely, finding common ground leads to greater feelings of compassion.
  • Better understanding. Compassion increases your ability to understand another person. When you understand them, you can more easily assess their limitations and adjust the care you provide them accordingly.

Extending Compassion To Yourself

When practicing compassion, it’s important to remember to practice compassion toward yourself. Studies have linked self-compassion to an enhanced ability to cope with life’s struggles with greater ease and this extends to struggles you may experience in your caregiving role.

Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.

-Dalai Lama

Compassion must not be treated as a quality that is “just nice to have;” compassion needs be treated as a requirement. Beyond maximizing happiness and increasing resilience, compassion forces you to find common ground between you and the person you are caring for. Only when you realize you may be the one needing care one day will you truly understand how important compassion really is.