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Caregivers for Alzheimer’s Victims Find Yoga Improves Life, Slows Cellular Aging


Five million in U.S. care for people with dementia; stress puts them at high risk of depression

This report appears in the March edition of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry currently in print.


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March 13, 2012 – A new study out of UCLA suggests that using yoga to engage in very brief, simple daily meditation can lead to improved cognitive functioning and lower levels of depression for caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease victims.

For every individual who’s a victim of Alzheimer’s – some 5.4 million persons in the United States alone – there’s a related injured: the caregiver. Spouse, son, daughter, other relative or friend, the loneliness, exhaustion, fear and most of all stress and depression takes a toll.

Dr. Helen Lavretsky, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, RAA THE SENIOR AUTHOR and colleagues report a further benefit as well: a reduction in stress-induced cellular aging.

As the U.S. population continues to age over the next two decades, the prevalence of dementia and the number of family caregivers who provide support to these loved ones will increase dramatically. Currently, at least five million Americans provide care for someone with dementia. The detrimental burden on them, in terms of their own lives, can be severe.

Lavretsky, who also directs UCLA’s Late-Life Depression, Stress and Wellness Research Program points out that…“We know that chronic stress places caregivers at a higher risk for developing depression. On average, the incidence and prevalence of clinical depression in family dementia caregivers approaches 50 percent.

“Caregivers are also twice as likely to report high levels of emotional distress,” she says.

What’s more, many caregivers tend to be older individuals themselves, leading to what Lavretsky calls an “impaired resilience” to stress and an increased rate of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

The researchers recruited 39 family caregivers who were taking care of their relatives with dementia. The patients ranged in age from 45 to 91 years old and included 26 adult children and 13 spouses. The participants were then randomly assigned to one of two groups.

The meditation group was taught a brief, 12-minute yogic practice that included an ancient chanting meditation, Kirtan Kriya, which was performed every day at the same time for eight weeks.

The other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music on a relaxation CD, also for 12 minutes every day at the same time for eight weeks.

At the end of the eight weeks the researchers found that the meditation group showed significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms and greater improvement in mental health and cognitive functioning, compared with the relaxation group.

“We found that the effects on cognitive and mental functioning and telomerase activity were specific to the Kirtan Kriya. Because Kirtan Kriya had several elements of using chanting, mudras (finger poses) and visualization, there was a ‘brain fitness’ effect in addition to stress-reduction that contributed to the overall effect of the meditation.”

Lavretsky plans a follow-up to this pilot study to provide further confirmation of this potential mechanism in a neuroimaging study of Kirtan Kriya.


Stanton Lawson is the Co-Owner of Sequoia Senior Solutions. Sequoia’s mission is to ensure a better quality of life for their elderly clients and their families, by providing dependable and affordable in-home care. Sequoia’s focus is to keep you or your loved ones at home and avoid:

  • Loss of friends and possessions
  • Loss of independence and freedom
  • Loss of spirit which is drained by the battles of daily living

Sequoia Senior Solutions, Inc. services Napa, Sonoma, Marin, Solano, Mendocino, Lake Counties. The main office is located at191 Lynch Creek Way, Suite 102, Petaluma, CA 94954. Email  Tel: (707) 763-6600 Fax: (707) 763-6607,

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  1. Stan, this is fascinating information. I’ve done yoga regimes in the past and found them to be very revitalizing myself. This was really good – thanks!!!

  2. Stanton Lawson

     /  April 3, 2012

    Tor, it is amazing what the right kind of workout for different kinds of people can accomplish. I would have thought that the yoga alone was enough, but it appears that the chanting is just as important. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I did not know this, but it does not surprise me. Exercise and relaxing combined – sure to help the mind recuperate.

  4. Stanton Lawson

     /  April 4, 2012

    You are so right, David. What was the unusual part was how the chanting added to the relaxation. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I am a nurse & care for the elderly in a Nursing Home cellad Harmonee House. There is a very unique reason for the name but, I won’t go into detail as it is very lengthy. My husband was a victim of the dreaded Alzheimer’s Disease along with vascular dementia. He was a very strong, determined man, very set in his ways. He was just a little this side of brilliant as a building contractor in the construction of any kind of medical facilities IE; Hospitals, clinics, etc. Also built chemical laboratories. He loved traveling in RV’s after retiring. He was diagnosed with this disease quite awhile after I had suspected his problem because I could not get him to see his Doctor even though he had always been one for regular check ups, he was always told he was as healthy as anyone could be at his age. This was stamped in his mind & one thing he never forgot as long as he any bit of memory left . Over two years his doctor & I came up with every reason we could think of to get him into the clinic for tests. He had a traffic accident which warranted the need to be hospitalized (after walking away from many other traffic mishaps, driving without a DL, since it had been taken away from him, another huge fine, but fortunately, out of all the accidents (apprx. 20) no one else was hurt or, more importantly, killed) he was diagnosed & put on medication. He was so far advanced in the disease, the medication used for onset of the disease, did not help him. He had no hospital insurance, only medicare. At that time alot of procedures that were required, were not covered my medicare & our savings were depleted very rapidly. This is not the end of a very tragic story but, I will stop here. I have written this so people will be aware of the costs, mentally & financially, associated with this disease, that they maybe prepared should it ever, suddenly, pop up in their family. Make yourself aware of the signs & symptoms & get checked as quickly as possible if & when a sign is suspected. The medication for Alzheimer will help if it is started in early stages. It will make life so much easier for the unfortunate one & the care giver. Believe me, you will need all the help you can receive. I am a nurse & have taken care of patients with dementia & it is heartbreaking but, when it becomes a family member & you have to watch a mind deteriorate of a loved one, I can’t express enough how terrible this can be. Alzheimer’s Associations need all the help they can get, especially,financial.

  6. Stanton Lawson

     /  May 21, 2012

    Jen, your story is all too familiar. Thank you for sharing it with us. We hope that you are able to remain strong for your husband and all the other people that you help. Thank you for taking the time to visit with us and share your story.

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