Inner peace is something that many search for, regardless of their age or circumstance. For those with a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you understand even more the importance of peace and contentment in our daily lives. While everyone’s journey may look different, certain mindfulness practices can dramatically improve our quality of life—both for caregivers and those with cognitive impairment. Yoga and meditation for Alzheimer’s, while not a direct clinical strategy, may even mitigate associated negative behaviors. These practices can also reduce stress, insomnia, risk of cardiovascular disease and blood pressure.
Learn about the various benefits of mindfulness activities, then start your yoga and meditation practice with our tips below!
The Basics of Meditation
Meditation, at its core, is a simple activity with impressive benefits. For beginners, a standard meditation session can include just two key steps:
- Get comfortable: find a place that provides comfort and peace, away from regular distractions that might catch your attention. For those living in a memory care community, this means a quiet space away from the common areas with extra noise. You might even consider an outdoor spot.
- Focus on your breath: close your eyes and slowly begin to inhale through the mouth and out through the nose. Pay attention to the way your body begins to slowly relax as you pattern your breathing. Let the air fill your lungs, and slowly release in long, repeated sessions for two to four minutes. This time can be extended as one is able.
If you have a hard time focusing, try painting a mental picture of a fond memory or place. For caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s, walk your loved one through this exercise. Have them describe the location in detail, explaining each element of the space until their breathing slows and they narrow their focus.
While there are more complex strategies that you can layer onto this approach, at its core, meditation is meant to center oneself and embrace a still nature to calm anxieties or thoughts.
Yoga and Meditation for Alzheimer’s
Yoga or pilates as complementary practices to meditation are a great way to get the body moving while still focusing on finding peace and relaxation. For those with dementia or Alzheimer’s, a yoga session may include the following:
- Slow, gentle movements, repeated over time
- A 20 – 30 minute guided session
- Poses and exercises accessible from a chair
- Breathing and relaxation exercises to conclude the practice
While you may need to modify some routines for individual abilities, yoga perfectly complements most breathing and meditative practices. If you’re unsure where to start, try using free resources from YouTube to learn a couple of exercises. Based on your physical space at home or in your loved one’s memory care community, consider a group practice. If you and family members join your loved one, it may limit distractions and create a more welcoming and safe environment.
Remember that even some gentle movement followed by a few deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress for you and your loved one. You could even include essential oils or aromatherapy. Meditation for Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be elaborate or regimented—find your own rhythm!
Meditation as a Coping Practice for Caregivers
Caregiving, while rewarding, can also produce high-stress situations that are difficult to cope with. If you’re in a support role, it’s crucial to have an arsenal of tactics to relax, realign your thoughts and focus on what’s most important. Meditative practices are a great way to accomplish this and help you center yourself even before the day begins.
For those with a busy schedule, there are a variety of on-the-go apps and programs that will prompt and guide you through daily meditation. Some of the best apps in 2020 included The Mindfulness App, Headspace, Calm and Satva. Research and find the right program for you based on your individual needs and the outcomes you’d like to achieve.
A Path to Improve Quality of Life
While meditation for Alzheimer’s is not clinically proven to treat ongoing symptoms, it’s a valuable resource to improve quality of life and lessen stressful symptoms. The peace found can be important for both caregivers and the ones they support, as they work together to create meaningful daily experiences.
Learn more about how mindfulness helps with anxiety and dementia.