People often choose or are thrust into the role of caregiver. They are often the primary provider of services for healthy, seriously ill, or special needs children. They may care for elderly, often parents, but possibly for siblings, or other relations. They care for the sick from chronically seriously ill, to hospice care, to temporarily incapacitated. There are a wide variety of situations and contexts. But, in common to all is great stress and hardship on the caregiver.
Caregivers face many challenges that can take a toll on them. Burnout is common. Their own health is often compromised as the stress takes its toll. The modern emphasis on in-home care has increased the magnitude of the problem. It is important to find ways to assist caregivers so that they can continue to provide the needed care without serious compromise to their own health or well-being.
Mindfulness is not a solution, but it can help. This is exemplified in today’s Research News article, “Mindfulness-Based Positive Behavior Support (MBPBS) for Mothers of Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Effects on Adolescents’ Behavior and Parental Stress.”
Mindfulness training for the caregiver with an autistic child is shown to not only reduce caregiver stress, but improve the behavior of the child, reducing the onerousness of the task.
How does mindfulness help caregivers?
Mindfulness training has been repeatedly demonstrated to improve attention. By being more attentive and screening out irrelevant stimuli the individual becomes more focused on the other person. Being attuned to another makes the caregivers responses better aligned with what the other needs making caregiving more efficient and effective.
Another way that mindfulness training can be of help is through improved emotion regulation. Mindfulness is associated with a heightened ability to recognize and manage one’s own emotions. In caregiving it is easy to react to your own emotions and as a result respond inappropriately or ignore the actual needs of the other person. So, the caregiver can be much more effective by being able to better regulate their own emotions.
Mindfulness training has also been shown to reduce stress and responses to stress. This can be of direct benefit to the caregiver in dealing with the stress of caregiving. This can in turn improve both the caregiving and also the health and well-being of the caregiver.
It should be emphasized that caregiving is complex and very demanding. Mindfulness training is not a magical solution to the issues confronted by the caregiver. It does, however, appear to help, making both the caregiving and the caregiver better.
So, be mindful and be better equipped to provide care to others when needed.