The Power of Meditation for Family Caregivers
Being a caregiver is stressful. There’s no doubt about it. You’ve probably read tips about eating right, self-care, and even using respite care for your aging loved one when you need a break.
But have you considered using meditation to reduce stress and achieve a better sense of life balance?
Researchers at the University of California – Los Angeles have discovered that using a specific type of yogic meditation daily can reduce stress levels
for family caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
In another study caregivers who practiced Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction
(MBSR) exhibited reduced stress and decreased depression, when compared to a control group who had access to caregiver education and support without meditation training.
The Physical Benefits of Meditation
Caregivers who practiced yoga meditation for just 12 minutes a day for eight weeks in the first study showed reduced stress.
Meditation doesn’t take long. And it’s not hard to learn.
The benefits you will enjoy include:
- Stronger immune system
- Lower risk of depression
- Increased energy
Yogic meditation reduced the body’s inflammation response in the UCLA study. Inflammation has been linked to a number of diseases and disorders, including heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s.
In addition, caregivers who meditate exhibit lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. Cortisol contributes to weight gain, ulcers, migraines, and other stress-related ailments.
Types of Meditation
Caregivers can choose from a number of different types of meditation to reduce stress.
Yogic Meditation – Kirtan Kriya meditation, the kind studied by UCLA researchers, combines singing with finger exercises. The combination of these acts improves blood flow to the motor-sensory area of the brain. Yogic meditation also involves visualization. Together, these simple activities can help caregivers live in the moment even when they aren’t meditating.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction – In this form of meditation, practitioners focus on nonjudgmental awareness and living in the moment. This meditation helps reduce fears about the future.
Deep breathing exercises - Pranayama breathing emphasizes breath control and has been shown to reduce stress and improve immune function.
Practice Meditation Alone or With a Senior Loved One
Whatever form of meditation you choose can provide a greater sense of peace. Meditation helps caregivers live in the moment, let go of past regrets, and live unencumbered by worries about the future.
Many senior living centers offer meditation and yoga programs for their residents. Seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia benefit from this mind-body approach to wellness, as do their caregivers.
Consider practicing meditation with your aging loved one, or carve out just 12 to 20 minutes per day to engage in mindfulness on your own.
A Mind-Body Approach to Stress Reduction
Relying on a combination of practical caregiving resources such as community support and daily meditation can give caregivers the strength they need to provide the best care for their loved one while maintaining their own physical health and mental well-being.
Learn more about resources for caregivers at Five Star Senior Living.