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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (707) 763-6600 Fax: (707) 763-6607, www.sequoiaseniorsolutions.com.
- Does Personality Play a Role in the Stress of Caregiving? (brainblogger.com)
- Meditation Helps Memory Loss Patients (medicalnewstoday.com)