How Practicing Mindfulness is Good for Seniors with Dementia
Mindfulness meditation has graced several research studies for many years now. Its benefits, which were discovered by the ancient Chinese, are steadily being confirmed right now.
The practice had been widely known to influence the brain and its health positively. In fact, studies suggest that it can help decrease the symptoms of several mental illnesses like anxiety, chronic stress, and depression.
More importantly, it plays a massive part in helping seniors manage the symptoms of their dementia. That’s why several memory care services practice mindfulness to aid both seniors and caregivers in improving their overall health.
But before diving into the benefits of this practice, here’s a quick rundown of what mindfulness is.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness refers to a meditation practice that allows a person to be present and be aware of the current moment. It teaches individuals to focus on current feelings, sensations, and thoughts without judgment.
Some of the most common structured mindfulness exercises include:
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction or (MBSR).
- The Koan practice.
- Sitting or walking mindfulness meditation.
- Body scan meditation.
Many wellness centers offer guided mindfulness sessions, both online and offline. Furthermore, you can even do mindfulness meditation in your home, provided that you have a comfortable and peaceful space to meditate.
Many memory care services and facilities also provide mindfulness activities for their residents with dementia. Its many benefits proved to be significant in their battle against the disease.
If you have a senior family member with dementia, then it’s high time to try mindfulness with them and see its excellent benefits.
Benefits of Mindfulness for Seniors with Dementia
Here are just some of the many benefits you and your loved one will reap once you commit to mindfulness meditation.
- Helps Reduce Stress
At its core, mindfulness exercise is a practice that helps you achieve mental and emotional calmness. It trains your mind to find peace despite the troubles that you’re experiencing at the moment.
Furthermore, science proved that mindfulness helps reduce mental stress by observing the brain through MRI scans. They found that through mindfulness exercises, the amygdala–a part of the brain that responds with stress–becomes smaller, which is a good sign.
As a caregiver or family member, you can help your senior to practice this technique so that they can manage and control their emotions during a stressful situation. A simple exercise like letting them sit in a comfortable chair and do deep breathings counts as mindfulness.
- Improves Cognitive Function
Forgetfulness, problems in concentration, and attention are just some of the many effects of dementia on seniors. It also deteriorates their cognitive skills like critical thinking, learning, and comprehension. Thus, making it difficult for seniors to function normally.
To prevent further decline, memory care facilities engage seniors in mind-stimulating activities partnered with mindfulness meditation.
According to research, mindfulness techniques directly impact the brain’s activity. Some notable occurrences include:
- Increased health of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This means that mindfulness exercises help improve creativity, planning, and problem-solving.
- Signs of activity in the hippocampus–a part of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
- Increasing volume of the grey matter. This means that in the long-run, mindfulness can slow the brain’s aging.
- Enhances Mental Health
Besides cognitive function, meditation also helps improve a senior’s psychological well-being. It is an excellent preventive and intervention tool for seniors with dementia. Meditation is also helpful for seniors experiencing mental problems like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
So, train your senior loved one to practice mindfulness for at least 30 minutes every day. You can introduce it to them by setting aside a specific time for meditation. You can use breathing techniques, guided imagery, and other structured exercises.
Over time, you will see how the practice will improve their mood, lessen emotional reactivity and sudden outbursts, and decrease agitation and aggressiveness.
Further, practicing mindfulness activities allow them to feel good about themselves and regain a sense of control in their lives. When seniors feel relaxed and happy, their symptoms are less likely to overpower them.
- Boosts Physical Health
Dementia affects not only the cognitive capacity of seniors but also their physical health. The stress and fatigue of dealing with its symptoms usually affect their appetite and body systems. Thus, decreasing their ability to fight off other diseases that might infect them.
Fortunately, mindfulness meditation can help keep the body healthy and fight off some health conditions. Some of its numerous physical benefits include:
- It keeps the heart-healthy.
- It manages blood pressure levels.
- It helps relieve chronic pain and stress.
- It relieves digestive problems.
- Wards off heart diseases and hypertension.
- Slows down most of dementia’s symptoms
- Promotes Relaxation and Better Sleep
Notice how every mindfulness technique involves a quiet surrounding, comfortable position, and, more often than not, closing your eyes?
That’s because the whole point of it is to relax your mind and body so that you can sort out your emotions and thoughts without judgment. And with relaxation and calmness comes better sleep afterward.
So, it’s better to schedule mindfulness exercises closer to your senior loved one’s sleeping time. This will also help them overcome insomnia and sundowning, which is a common symptom of dementia.
- Creates a Better Outlook on Life
All in all, mindfulness enhances a senior’s overall well-being. Practicing it over a period of time can help your loved one have a better outlook on life. It also changes the negativity they feel towards their disease. Thus, allowing them to enjoy and appreciate life to the fullest.
Furthermore, being mindful allows them to manage their emotional and behavioral symptoms better. They are also less likely to be triggered by events and happenings.
Now, it will be easier for your loved one to be more present and connected. You will find them more engaged in conversations, social in gatherings, and more pleasant.
So if you have a loved one with dementia, make sure to include mindfulness in their daily routine. Or better yet, find a community that has mindfulness meditation as part of their memory care services.