Are you caring for someone who lives with dementia? If you answered “yes”, then you are a very caring, kind and devoted person. You are also more than likely a very stressed out person, and you probably already know that your loved one depends on you being healthy and well. So, what can you do to alleviate some of this stress in your caring role?
Here are 5 simple steps you can take right now to help you feel grounded, relaxed and well:
- Sit down for 10 minutes with a cup of herbal tea. No TV, no mobile phone, no laptop. Don’t read the paper, or the weekly magazine. No coffee or alcohol as these are stimulants and depressants respectively. Just you and your cup of tea and the sounds around you.
- Go for a walk to the nearest park. Don’t make it rushed because you are stressed and these 20 minutes will cut into your day. Don’t get resentful over the time you are taking for this walk. Place one foot in front of the other, mindfully taking each step. Notice the houses and the people you pass, listen to the birds and dogs, and let yourself be in that moment.
- Change your attitude when you feel pushed to the limit. Instead of getting annoyed or angry with your loved one, try to turn it around and go with the flow. If they tell you they don’t want to eat something, or they repeat a question over and over, just go with them – it’s their realty after all. Trying to fight it is a waste of energy.
- Arrange for some time out, even if only for a couple of hours. If you can afford to get extra care support in, then why not use it. If not, contact your case manager and see what funding is available to give you a short break. Take this time to completely let go of your duties for a few hours and go see a movie, or enjoy a healthy lunch with friends.
- Learn some mindfulness meditation techniques. You may download mindfulness meditations online, many for free, and some as short as 6 minutes. Or you might prefer to join a class in your local area. Learning mindfulness meditation takes commitment, but it is so worth it as the results will change you – you start to see things clearly, approach situations differently, feel peaceful and most importantly, learn how to curb the stress before it begins.
The research supports mindfulness
A 2010 research article, published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (1), studied a group of 45-85 year old carers looking after a loved one living with dementia. The group were split into two: Group 1 participated in a weekly 90 minute mindfulness meditation program for 7 weeks, Group 2 spent this same time having respite from their caring role. At the end of the study it was discovered that there was a significant correlation between the mindfulness activities and higher mood scores, with lower stress scores in Group 1. Caregiver stress was decreased in the mindfulness group compared to the respite-only group.
A second article, published in Mindfulness journal (2), in 2011, studied a group of female family caregivers, aged between 48 – 73. They participated in an 8 week mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Participants reported perceived stress, depression and feelings of burden decreased during the 8 week mindfulness program, and well into the month that followed the study. Participants stated that they had acquired the skills they needed to continue this practice at home, finding themselves more attentive, mindful and experiencing increased calmness.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Learning to be in the moment, living mindfully is not easy as we all have long-held patterns and egos that get in the way. But once you receive the tools you realise how simple the process is. You can start improving your health and wellbeing today by following the 5 steps, particularly focusing on step 5.