Reduce the Psychological Burdens on Parkinson’s Disease Caregivers with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness-based interventions can improve mental health status, including reduction of stress and anxiety levels, in family caregivers of veterans with Parkinson’s disease.” Patricia Inacio
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is an incurable progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system. The condition is caused by the death of nerve cells in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. There are around seven million people worldwide and one million people in the U.S. living with PD and about 60,000 people are diagnosed with PD every year. Its physical symptoms include resting tremor, slow movements, muscle rigidity, problems with posture and balance, loss of automatic movements, and slurring of speech. PD itself is not fatal but is often associated with related complications which can reduce life expectancy, such as falls, choking, and cardiovascular problems. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) also has psychological effects, especially cognitive decline, anxiety, and depression. All of these symptoms result in a marked reduction in the quality of life. There are no cures for Parkinson’s Disease or even treatments to slow its progression. There are only treatments that can produce symptomatic relief.
Caring for Parkinson’s Disease patients is very demanding and goes on for years. This exacts a tremendous toll on caregivers’ health and well-being. Caregiving has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety as well as higher use of psychoactive medications, poorer self-reported physical health, compromised immune function, and increased mortality. Mindfulness training has been shown to be beneficial for caregivers. So, mindfulness training may be helpful in decreasing the psychological difficulty of caring for a patient with Parkinson’s Disease.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Psychological Flexibility are Inversely Associated with Caregiver Burden in Parkinson’s Disease.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7071391/), Klietz and colleagues recruited Parkinson’s Disease patients and their primary caregivers. The patients and the caregivers were asked to complete a questionnaire measuring depression, and health-related quality of life. The caregivers only completed measures of Parkinson’s disease caregiver burden, psychological flexibility, and mindfulness. The patients also completed a measure of Parkinson’s disease -related impairment.
They found that the higher the levels of Parkinson’s Disease symptoms, patient quality-of-life restrictions, caregiver quality-of-life restrictions, and depressive symptoms of the caregiver the higher the Parkinson’s Disease caregiver burden. But the higher the levels of mindfulness and psychological flexibility the lower the levels of Parkinson’s Disease caregiver burden.
These results are correlational and so causation cannot be determined. They show that the burden on the caregivers are related to the severity of Parkinson’s Disease symptoms and their impact on the patient’s and caregiver’s quality of life. But the results also suggest that if the caregiver’s have high levels of mindfulness and the ability to be flexible, they experience lower burden.
“Psychological flexibility refers to the extent to which a person can cope with changing circumstances and think about problems and tasks in novel and creative ways.” This then suggests that the caregiver’s ability to think about their situation in different ways is important for reducing the burden they experience. “Mindfulness is defined as the tendency to purposely bring one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgement.” This suggests that the caregiver’s ability to see their situation as it really is but not judge it contributes to lessening their burden. In the future it would be interesting to train caregivers in mindfulness and psychological flexibility and determine if this training produces a decrease in the burden the caregivers experience.
So, reduce the psychological burdens on Parkinson’s Disease caregivers with mindfulness.
“Family caregivers fill a world of need, and in doing so are at risk of falling into the caregiver burnout abyss. . . Mindfulness is a necessary core competency that we all need to develop. Taking space for yourself will keep you grounded and peaceful while allowing you to be of service.” – Audrey Meinertzhagen
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Klietz, M., Drexel, S. C., Schnur, T., Lange, F., Groh, A., Paracka, L., Greten, S., Dressler, D., Höglinger, G. U., & Wegner, F. (2020). Mindfulness and Psychological Flexibility are Inversely Associated with Caregiver Burden in Parkinson’s Disease. Brain sciences, 10(2), 111. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10020111
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative movement disorder with progressive impairments in activities of daily living. With disease progression, people with PD (PwP) need more help and care from their spouses or professional caregivers. Identifying factors that help caregivers to cope with their burden is needed to frame future interventions for PwP caregivers. Mindfulness and psychological flexibility might be factors contributing to resilience against the burden of giving care. In this cross-sectional questionnaire-based study, 118 PwP and their respective primary caregivers were included. Caregivers reported moderate burden and only mild depressive symptoms. Mindfulness measured by the Mindfulness Attention and Awareness scale (p 0.003) and psychological flexibility measured by Acceptance and Actions Questionnaire II (p 0.001) correlated negatively with caregiver burden. Data from this study indicate mindfulness and psychological flexibility are factors contributing to resilience against caregiver burden. Future interventions to reduce burden in PwP caregivers might be improved by the inclusion of mindfulness training programs.