Reduce Dementia Caregiver Grief with Mindfulness and Compassion
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Grief is not as heavy as guilt, but it takes more away from you.” – Veronica Roth
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 care for caregivers. Mindfulness practice for caregivers has been shown to help them cope with the physical and psychological demands of caregiving.
In today’s Research News article “Effects of a compassion-based program on the grief experienced by caregivers of people suffering from dementia: a randomized controlled clinical trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ) Jahani and colleagues recruited family caregivers of dementia patients and assigned them to either no treatment or do receive 5 weekly online sessions of mindfulness and compassion training. Before and after training the participants completed measures of grief.
They found that compared to baseline and the control group the participants who received mindfulness and compassion training had significantly lower levels of grief, personal sacrifice burden, heartfelt sadness and worry, worry and felt isolation, Hence, mindfulness and compassion training produced significant reductions in overall grief and all three fields of the grief experience in family caregivers of dementia patients.
“Many caregivers share that they often feel alone, isolated, and unappreciated. Mindfulness can offer renewed hope for finding support and value for your role as a caregiver…It is an approach that everyone can use. It can help slow you down some so you can make the best possible decisions for your care recipient. It also helps bring more balance and ease while navigating the caregiving journey.”― Nancy L. Kriseman
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Jahani L, Abolhassani S, Babaee S, Omranifard V. Effects of a compassion-based program on the grief experienced by caregivers of people suffering from dementia: a randomized controlled clinical trial. BMC Nurs. 2022 Jul 25;21(1):198. doi: 10.1186/s12912-022-00980-5. PMID: 35879751; PMCID: PMC9316726.
Dementia is a syndrome that reduces the cognitive and functional abilities of the brain increasing the need for care. The caregivers of these patients are mostly their family members. The great care burden causes devastating effects on the health of family caregivers and the grief experienced by these family caregivers is considerable. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of a compassion-based program on the grief experienced by caregivers of people suffering from dementia.
The present study was a randomized controlled clinical trial in which 70 family caregivers of people suffering from dementia were sampled through the block method and they were divided into experimental and control groups. The data collection tools included demographic information questionnaire and grief inventory that was completed before, a week and a month after the implementation of the compassion-based program in five sessions virtually by sending offline content to the experimental group. The obtained data were analyzed by SPSS 22 software using the repeated measures analysis of variance.
The mean comparison of scores of the grief experienced in the experimental group between pretest and posttest and follow-up, unlike the control group, showed a significant difference (p < 0.001). The mean scores of the experimental and the control groups were significantly different in terms of experiencing mourning and all of its fields (p < 0.001). The mean comparison of post-test and follow-up showed that the effect of a compassion-based program at the follow-up stage has been mitigated.
According to the study results, the compassion-based program reduced the grief experienced by the family caregivers of people suffering from dementia. Nevertheless, the effect of a compassion-based program has been reduced over time. This program can be a good guide for providing society-oriented services to the health team.