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Published on: August 30, 2014
by Marla Paul for Alzheimer’s Reading Room:
Ken Paller, a fellow of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, reported in a new study that mindfulness training for individuals with early-stage dementia and their caregivers was beneficial.
Mindfulness training for individuals with early-stage dementia and their caregivers together in the same class was beneficial for both groups, easing depression and improving sleep and quality of life, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.
“The disease is challenging for the affected person, family members and caregivers,“ said study lead author Ken Paller, PhD, professor of psychology at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern and a fellow of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“Although they know things will likely get worse, they can learn to focus on the present, deriving enjoyment in the moment with acceptance and without excessive worry about the future. This is what was taught in the mindfulness program.”
“One of the major difficulties that individuals with dementia and their family members encounter is that there is a need for new ways of communicating due to the memory loss and other changes in thinking and abilities,” noted study co-author Sandra Weintraub, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Feinberg and a neuropsychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “The practice of mindfulness places both participants in the present and focuses on positive features of the interaction, allowing for a type of connection that may substitute for the more complex ways of communicating in the past. It is a good way to address stress.”
Although the individuals with Alzheimer’s had mild to severe memory loss, they still were able to use other cognitive functions to participate in the mindfulness training and to experience emotion and positive feelings, Weintraub noted.
“Mindfulness involves attentive awareness with acceptance for events in the present moment. You don’t have to be drawn into wishing things were different. Mindfulness training in this way takes advantage of people’s abilities rather than focusing on their difficulties.” ~Ken Paller
“We saw lower depression scores and improved ratings on sleep quality and quality of life for both groups,” said Paller, director of the cognitive neuroscience program. “After eight sessions of this training we observed a positive difference in their lives.”
“Mindfulness involves attentive awareness with acceptance for events in the present moment,” Paller said. “You don’t have to be drawn into wishing things were different. Mindfulness training in this way takes advantage of people’s abilities rather than focusing on their difficulties.”
Developing mindfulness is about learning different habits and a person has to practice a new habit for it to stick, Paller noted.
Paller said he hoped the study findings would encourage caregivers to seek out resources for learning mindfulness for themselves and the individuals with illness.
The paper is titled: “Benefits of Mindfulness Training for Patients With Progressive Cognitive Decline and Their Caregivers.”
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