Carrying On, with Empathy

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by Ray Burow |

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risk factors, exercise, control, judgment, father's day, awareness month, empathy, togetherness, fear

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” — Anonymous

If you’re like a lot of people, the COVID-19 pandemic is the first thing that comes to mind when you awaken, and possibly the last penetrating thought before bedtime. Though we tire of its bad news, we can’t turn away.

Like a train wreck, or a terrible accident that slows traffic on the interstate, it’s upsetting but we have to look. Experts keep us informed as to the number of people taken ill and resulting deaths, the lack of hospital beds, and the unimaginable scenarios that continue to feed panic.

The numbers represent us

We tend to forget that demographics represent people. The statistics and numbers associated with illness, death, and — might I also include, selfishness — represent us. What is our thought process regarding the masses of individuals who are statistically represented by illness, death, compromised immune systems, and hoarding?

Which scenario do you and I identify with?

We may not have tested positive for COVID-19 or have a condition that falls within the demographic of people more likely to contract it, but our view of those individuals and circumstances speaks to our empathy, or lack thereof.

How are we driven by the information we receive?

Perception drives behavior

Americans are spoiled. Don’t misunderstand. I am grateful and proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. However, for those who may not get out that much, it could be a blessing that drives misperception.

We’re used to walking into overstocked grocery stores and pulling what we need or don’t need from its shelves. Toilet paper is scarce right now, because it was available to hoard. This isn’t an issue for some poorer countries, where the paper product is seldom available, even on a good day. Running water to flush this novelty would also be a challenge.

Doctors Without Borders and other humanitarian organizations meet medical needs of people living in poor countries (and conflict zones) without the resources to provide hospitals with personnel and equipment. Shortages of respirators, surgical masks, and basic medication are commonplace, unlike what is usually found in the United States.

I am not suggesting that Americans feel guilty for having access to the resources that people in other nations do not. However, I am suggesting a responsibility to carry on with empathy and gratefulness.

Empathy changes the playing field

When we empathize, we open our eyes to the unique situations and needs of others.

Empathizers don’t hoard resources, knowing that excessive stocking could leave others without. Empathy also creates a space in which I am comfortable policing myself, for the benefit of someone who is more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.

How will we emerge post-pandemic?

Let incredibly empty store shelves serve as a reminder of people in countries that are less fortunate than our own. They go without every day. If able, make a donation to the American Red Cross or other humanitarian organization, like Samaritan’s Purse. Help to defray devastating need.

Empathize with a caregiver

Do you have cabin fever from sheltering in place? Think of the 5.8 million people in the United States with Alzheimer’s disease. Many of them, along with their family caregivers, are isolated. Stuck inside four walls, sheltering in place is a way of life and not only during a pandemic.

Caregiving can be the face of loneliness. Reach out to a caregiver with a call, an email, or text. You may be the only bridge between them and the outside world. When the craziness surrounding this virus finally comes to an end, volunteer to help out. Be a caregiver’s window, their passage out of loneliness.

As our nation continues to battle COVID-19, I wish you good health, a grateful heart, and a healthy dose of empathy during this unprecedented time.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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