Dementia Caregiver Meditation! Yeah, right! Who has time for it?

Hopefully, by the time you end up reading this, you might make some time to try it.

Man sitting back and relaxing in a comfortable chair

You have undoubtedly heard about meditation and its many uses. It is one of the best, if not the best, methods of tapping into your subconscious. It is primarily used for that purpose, in fact, and has been around for thousands of years because it works so well.

What is meditation

According to Cleveland Clinic, meditation is “a practice that involves focusing or clearing your mind using a combination of mental and physical techniques.”

There are many forms of meditation. The most common, and the one you have probably heard about several times, is the method where you sit cross-legged and focus on your breathing while clearing your mind of all thoughts. That is one method, yes, but it does not work for everyone.

Not only do some people not like traditional meditation, but others simply cannot use it due to issues such as ADHD. Let’s face it, caregivers don’t have the time to sit and do this for an extended period of time. Especially if they also have a family of their own.

A few other types of meditation include mantra/chanting meditation, movement meditation, progressive-relaxation meditation, focused meditation, loving-kindness meditation, guided meditation and visualization meditation.

The rest of this post will focus on mindfulness meditation.

Caregiver Concerns About Meditation

Being a caregiver, you might be thinking about the time it would take or these other concerns  including:

  • Feeling Uncomfortable about doing it in the first place – it may be a challenge to sit still and quiet your mind for an extended period of time, you might be frustrated that you aren’t doing it right

  • Guilt  – you will probably feel guilty about taking time out for yourself and that you are neglecting your loved one or your family

  • Difficulty Getting your mind to stop thinking – you constantly have a stream of responsibilities and worries bombarding your mind which might make it hard to quiet your mind 

  • Feeling skeptical about the topic itself – you might be like a lot of others in that you are doubtful that meditation works and that it’s just a lot of mumbo jumbo

  • It’s too hard – You might be thinking that meditating is too complex to try

  • Unfamiliarity with How to Meditate – you probably have an idea of what meditation is but you just aren’t sure how to go about actually meditating

  • Doubt – You may wonder how it fits into your life when you already have so much to do

  • And yes, time. You already have a demanding schedule. How are you going to fit in time to meditate?

Now that we’ve brought up concerns about the practice of meditation, let’s look at its benefits.

Benefits of Meditation

Integrating meditation into your caregiver routine can be highly beneficial for the following reasons:

Stress Reduction

Caregiving is emotionally, physically, and mentally demanding, which in turn raises stress levels and caregivers get burnt out. Meditation provides a way to relax the mind and body, reducing the production of stress hormones like cortisol. Regular meditation sessions can help you feel calmer, more centered, and better equipped to handle challenges you may face.

Improved Coping Mechanisms

Through meditation you may learn ways to cope (which we’ll get to in a bit) with the challenges you encounter. This in turn leads to a more relaxed caregiver.

Improved Focus and Mental Clarity

You are juggling multiple responsibilities and making important decisions on behalf of your loved one(s). Meditation helps enhance focus and cognitive function, enabling you to think more clearly and make better choices even during hectic times. This improved mental clarity can lead to more effective caregiving.

Enhanced Patience and Empathy

Caring for loved ones with dementia is emotionally demanding, and you probably experience feelings of frustration and helplessness. Meditation builds your empathy and patience, leading you to be more compassionate and understanding towards your loved one.

Better Sleep Quality

Sleep is the time when your body and brain recharge. Caregivers need a good nights rest but oftentimes that’s difficult. Too much worry, a loved one’s needs, and a demanding schedule are just a few reasons why it’s hard to get a good night’s rest. Meditation helps calm the mind and get you more relaxed before bedtime.

Increased Self-Care and Well-Being

As a caregiver you forget to take care of yourself or you just don’t have the time. Meditation encourages a focus on the present moment. Making it a point to meditate every day helps caregivers promote their well-being and prevent burnout.

Sense of Purpose and Fulfillment

Meditation may help caregivers find a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in their caregiving journey. It allows them to connect with their inner selves, reaffirming the value of their role.

Overall, meditation provides practical tools for caregivers to make it through the caregiving journey while maintaining your own well-being.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation, in very simple terms, is focusing on the now. The very moment you are in. Being fully present in the here and now.

It’s focusing on your breathing, the sensations in your body, opening up your senses and noticing what’s going on around you.

It’s looking for opportunities to be mindful. You can do it while walking outside, cooking a meal, stopped in traffic, or waiting at the doctor’s office!

Woman relaxing in chair looking out the window

How Caregivers Can Find Time for Short Mini-Sessions of Mindfulness

Here are some practical tips on how caregivers can incorporate mini-sessions into your daily routine.

Start Small

Begin with short sessions that require just a few minutes of your time. Even one or two minutes of mindfulness can make a difference. Gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice.

Utilize Breaks

Use short breaks throughout the day to practice mindfulness. Whether it’s during your loved one’s nap time or a moment when they are resting comfortably, take advantage of these intervals to practice a brief mindfulness exercise.

Morning Mindfulness

Kickstart your day with a mini-session of mindfulness. Dedicate a few minutes upon waking to focus on your breath or set positive intentions for the day ahead. This can help you start the day with a calmer and more centered mindset.

Mindful Meals

Turn mealtime into a mindful experience. Before eating or while preparing the meal, take a moment to savor the smells, tastes, and textures of the food. Be present with each bite and chew mindfully.

Mindful Transitions

Incorporate mindfulness during transitions between caregiving tasks or activities. Instead of rushing from one task to another, pause, take a few deep breaths, and bring your attention to the present moment before moving on.

Naptime or Bedtime Mindfulness

If your loved one takes naps or goes to bed early, consider using this time for a slightly longer mini-session of mindfulness. Take advantage of these quiet moments to relax and recharge.

Mindful Walks

When accompanying your loved one on a walk or pushing them in a wheelchair, use this time to practice mindful walking. Focus on the sensation of your feet touching the ground and the rhythm of your steps.

Mindfulness Reminders

Set reminders on your phone or use mindfulness apps to prompt you throughout the day. These reminders can nudge you to take a brief pause and practice mindfulness, even during busy times.

Involve Loved Ones

If appropriate, involve your loved one in the mindfulness practice. For example, you can practice deep breathing together or share moments of gratitude. Engaging in mindfulness as a team can strengthen your connection.

Evening Wind-Down

Wind down with a mini-session of mindfulness before bedtime. Practice relaxation techniques or a short body scan to ease stress and prepare for a restful sleep.

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be time-consuming. As you do it more often, day by day, you may begin to experience the benefits of mindfulness and realize that it doesn’t take that much time.

Wrap - Up

You can spend months or years just trying different kinds of meditation to find the one that is best for you. You do not need a teacher or class to learn meditation. If you want to do some kinds such as guided meditation, you will need a guide, but you can find these in recordings online or use an app.

Try several different kinds of meditation before you decide on the one (or ones) that you want to use for your personal practice. There is no rule saying you only have to do one type. You can switch back and forth whenever you want to.

Whichever form of meditation you decide to try, be sure to start slowly. You do not want to dive into an extensive form of a new practice without preparation. Trying to meditate for forty-five minutes five days a week starting from nothing is a great recipe for fast failure.

Instead, start slowly and do your meditation practice a few minutes at a time. Do it two or three times per week. Once you have it down to a routine, you can gradually add days and times to your practice.

For additional information, check out Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials and type in the word Meditation