Benefits of Mindfulness for Caregivers

Benefits of Mindfulness for Caregivers

Autumn 2017, Living Well Magazine

Regular and consistent mindfulness meditation helps to prevent caregivers from psychological stress and ‘caregiver overload’. Research from the University of Almeria has shown the benefits of mindfulness meditation in reducing psychological discomfort and overload in family caregivers.

Consistent with other research into the positive benefits of mindfulness meditation for managing general stress, and in taking charge of healing plans, the Spanish study observed family members who were caring for Alzheimer’s patients, as they took part in a mindfulness meditation program. Levels of psychological discomfort and perceived caregiver overload were recorded before and after the program, and significant reductions in both were observed.

The results again highlight the importance of lifestyle interventions to support conventional medical treatment, both for those affected by health challenges, and the carers who support them. Approaching physical and mental wellbeing, as an integrative part of the healing process, is beneficial for carers in that it supports their personal wellbeing and can ease the perceived burden of responsibility.

Though this particular study focuses on carers of those living with Alzheimer’s, the results suggest that mindfulness meditation can play an important role in reducing psychological discomfort, and caregiver overload, for all carers.

The study showed strong evidence of significant reductions in psychological discomfort and feelings of caregiver overload immediately following the mindfulness meditation program. In the evaluation survey completed four months later, the importance of regular and reinforced practice was highlighted. Results were less significant if regular mindfulness practice was not maintained, suggesting that regular meditation sessions should be consistently prioritised to achieve maximum, and long lasting, health benefits – both psychologically and physically.

This study supports much other research suggesting that mindfulness meditation-based interventions can significantly decrease levels of depression in caregivers who are often overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility and helplessness. Engaging in positive, empowering activities such as mindfulness meditation can support and enhance the journey of the caregiver, providing a ‘space’ to process their experiences.

Mindfulness meditation works on developing acceptance of all experiences – even painful ones – rather than avoidance. It works on the principle of allowing thoughts, sensations or sounds to flow without judgement. By recognising our thoughts or feelings and becoming aware of them, we are then able to refocus our thoughts back to the present. The ability to recognise irrational or self-defeating thoughts and to re-focus, induces a relaxation response, which in turn reduces stress levels in the body.

Often the caregiver will be so busy looking after others that their own wellbeing is neglected. Mindfulness meditation, when practised regularly, is a simple and valuable tool for supporting our supporters.

References:
Franco C, Sola Mdel M, Justo E. Reducing psychological discomfort and overload in Alzheimer’s family caregivers through a mindfulness meditation program. Rev Esp Geriatr Gerontol. 2010 Sep-Oct;45(5):252-8. doi: 10.1016/j.regg.2010.03.006.