Improve the Psychological Well-Being of Dementia Patients and their Caregivers with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness training eases depression and improves sleep and quality of life for both people with early-stage dementia and their caregivers. . . . Mindfulness involves attentive awareness with acceptance for events in the present moment. You don’t have to be drawn into wishing things were different. Mindfulness training in this way takes advantage of people’s abilities rather than focusing on their difficulties.” – Marla Paul
Dementia is a progressive loss of mental function produced by degenerative diseases of the brain. Dementia patients require caregiving particularly in the later stages of the disease. Caregiving for dementia patients is a daunting intense experience that can go on for four to eight years with increasing responsibilities as the loved one deteriorates. This places tremendous psychological and financial stress on the caregiver. Hence, there is a need to both care for the dementia patients and also for the caregivers. Mindfulness practice for caregivers has been shown to help them cope with the physical and psychological demands of caregiving. In addition, mindfulness training has been found to help protect aging individuals from physical and cognitive declines.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training for People with Dementia and Their Caregivers: Rationale, Current Research, and Future Directions.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00982/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_686352_69_Psycho_20180626_arts_A ), Berk and colleagues review and summarize the published research on the application of mindfulness training for the treatment for dementia patients and their caregivers.
They find that the published research reports that mindfulness training improves the psychological well-being of caregivers for dementia patients. It significantly reduces depression and anxiety and improves self-efficacy. Studies of mindfulness training for the dementia patients themselves report improvements in attention, memory, cognition, and quality of life. When the patients and their caregivers were both trained in mindfulness there were significant improvements in stress responses and mood in both.
These are important findings that strongly suggests that mindfulness training is a safe and effective means to improve the psychological well-being of both the dementia patient and their caregiver. Given the great difficulty and stress produced by dementia on both the patient and caregiver, these improvements are very important to relieve or at least mitigate the suffering of both. This suggests that mindfulness training should be routinely provided for dementia patients and their caregivers.
So, improve the psychological well-being of dementia patients and their caregivers with mindfulness.
“The dementia journey is hugely challenging and provokes in us a great deal of frustration, fear and dread—understandably. But as much as dementia is described as a journey of loss, it can also become a journey of love and understanding. At times, love needs to be gritty and determined; at other times, it will be sweet. At all times it must be unconditional.” – Alice Ashwell
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Berk L, Warmenhoven F, van Os J and van Boxtel M (2018) Mindfulness Training for People With Dementia and Their Caregivers: Rationale, Current Research, and Future Directions. Front. Psychol. 9:982. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00982
The world population is aging and the prevalence of dementia is increasing. By 2050, those aged 60 years and older are expected to make up a quarter of the population. With that, the number of people with dementia is increasing. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia. The progression of symptoms with no hope of improvement is difficult to cope with, both for patients and their caregivers. New and evidence-based strategies are needed to support the well-being of both caregiver and patient. Mindfulness training is a body-mind intervention that has shown to improve psychological well-being in a variety of mental health conditions. Mindfulness, a non-judgmental attention to one’s experience in the present moment, is a skill that can be developed with a standard 8-week training. Research has shown preliminary but promising results for mindfulness-based interventions to benefit people with dementia and caregivers. The aim of this review is (a) to provide a rationale for the application of mindfulness in the context of dementia care by giving an overview of studies on mindfulness for people with dementia and/or their caregivers and (b) to provide suggestions for future projects on mindfulness in the context of dementia and to give recommendations for future research.