Mindfulness, or mindfulness therapy, can means lots of different things. Its roots are in ancient Buddhist traditions, such as Zen and Vipassana meditations.
It is believed that practicing mindfulness teaches how to become aware of your physical, mental and emotional condition in the present moment. It's also believed to help people better control their thoughts.
Mindfulness involves meditation, concentration and actively listening to the senses, which brings an awareness of the present reality to the caregiver and the caregiver's awareness of their loved one's reality. Understanding the importance of breathing techniques that go along with mindfulness practices is also important as deep breathing exercises ease anxiety, relieves stress and increases energy.
For caregivers, the practice of mindfulness often can make a difference in the way they experience their loved ones' journey with the disease. They can learn to embrace the reality of each present moment with the affected person, whether it's positive or negative. Additionally, the caregiver can start appreciating the general transient nature of life as a whole and become better equipped to handle the day-to-day challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Mindfulness can sometimes create a transformation of sorts in that the caregiver will look at his or her role not so much as a giver of care all the time but as a care recipient of their loved one's devotion. In this lens of mindfulness, the caregiver moves more toward an attitude of gratitude and understanding, which makes them better able to handle the toll of caregiving and lends a greater sense of well-being, too.
In his book, "Dementia Beyond Drugs," Dr. Allen Power writes: "There are two keys to helping care partners achieve a positive approach in their daily interactions. The first is to create a strong support system for all who work within a given environment. … The second key is for each person to develop a process that helps him or her to achieve a balanced, centered state of mind when things get hectic. There are several approaches, from meditation to deep breathing to biofeedback. The essential element is mindfulness-the ability to exist in the moment and attend to the feelings at hand in a non-judgmental manner."
Being mindful can teach the caregiver, and all of us, that people with Alzheimer's disease still have a great deal to offer. We learn to live in the moment, to let go of our anxiety about the future, to let go of past resentments, to play and laugh, to pause and slow down and appreciate things, to be grateful for small successes, and we can learn not to busy ourselves so much that we miss the opportunity to appreciate and love the person with the disease.