Mindfulness Meditation Helps Caregivers, Loved Ones Live in the Moment

Mindfulness training is a form of meditation that helps people reduce stress by focusing on the present moment. Studies show that this practice can benefit the health of family caregivers whose loved one has Alzheimer’s or a related disorder, helping them cope with the stress and depression that can weaken their immune system and raise the risk of many health disorders.

Northwestern University researchers recently showed that people with memory loss can also benefit from mindfulness training — and they can attend the same sessions as their caregivers. A group of patients and their caregivers participated in the study during which they took a class designed to meet the needs of both patients and caregivers. Participating patients had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, memory loss due to stroke, or frontotemporal dementia. The family members included spouses, adult children and in-laws.

Patients and caregivers alike gained individual benefits, and the training also helped with their day-to-day relationship. Mindfulness training was found to be particularly beneficial when it came to one major challenge of dementia caregiving: communication. Said study co-author Prof. Sandra Weintraub, “One of the major difficulties that individuals with dementia and their family members encounter is that there is a need for new ways of communicating due to the memory loss and other changes in thinking and abilities. The practice of mindfulness places both participants in the present, and focuses on positive features of the interaction, allowing for a type of connection that may substitute for the more complex ways of communicating in the past.”

Said lead author Prof. Ken Paller, “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.”

The study appeared in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.

Source: Illuminage Communications Partners reporting on study from Northwestern University. Copyright 2015 IlluminAge.

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