Mindfulness Training for Caregivers & Loved Ones

Mindfulness training for people with early-stage dementia and their caregivers together in the same class turned out to be beneficial for both groups by easing depression and improving sleep and quality of life. That is the finding of research done at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and published in August 2014 in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.

A release from the university quotes lead author Ken Paller, a fellow of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern Medicine, as saying, “The disease is challenging for the affected person, family members and caregivers. Although they know things will likely get worse, they can learn to focus on the present, deriving enjoyment in the moment with acceptance and without excessive worry about the future. This is what was taught in the mindfulness program.” Remarkably, just eight sessions of mindfulness training made a positive difference.

The release notes that according to prior studies, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s are particularly hard on caregivers who are close family members. The caregivers tend to have increased anxiety, depression, immune dysfunction, and other health concerns. The caregivers also have a higher than average mortality rate,

Mindfulness mediation, a Buddhist practice popularized in the West by Jon Kabat-Zin, has long been recommended for caregivers. However, the Northwestern study is the first to show that the caregiver and the patient both benefit from undergoing mindfulness training together. The research team stresses that this is important because caregivers often don’t have much time on their own for activities that could relieve their emotional burden.

If you are a caregiver for a loved one with dementia, you know that statement rings true! Why not consider signing up the two of you for mindfulness meditation sessions and then continuing to practice what you have learned? Here’s to less stress and more peace of mind for all concerned!

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