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Meditation and Its Benefits for Senior Patients

People have been practicing meditation since prehistoric times—the first records relate to Vedantism, a Hindu tradition dating back to 1500 BCE. Now, thousands of years later, people all over the world and from all walks of life use meditation methods to manage pain, relieve stress and feel more in tune with themselves. Caregivers have found it an especially helpful component of senior care.

Physical Health

According to J. David Creswell, Ph.D., a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, meditation can relieve pain due to inflammation, may help with insomnia and could even help to reduce a senior's chance of developing respiratory infections. People between 55 and 85 years old who meditate for at least eight weeks showed a reduction in the inflammation measured in their C-reactive protein levels. Research has also shown that meditation can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and boost sleep time by 30 minutes or more. Adults over the age of 50 have even reported relief from chronic back and neck pain.

Mental Health

Mental health has long been linked to physical health. A senior who feels good mentally is more likely to feel good physically. Meditating stimulates the prefrontal cortex region of the brain, which relieves symptoms of depression and increases happiness. It also reduces stress and anxiety for those who are dealing with a chronic disability or the loss of a spouse. Finally, meditation improves memory and focuses the mind. Increased mental alertness makes it easier for a senior to communicate with his or her caregivers about health-related needs.

Meditation Methods

There are three main types of meditation: mindfulness, Buddhist-style and transcendental meditation. Mindfulness encourages practices to observe but not judge their own thoughts. It uses breathing techniques to help practicers "let go" of negative thoughts and become more in tune with their bodies. Buddhist-style meditation is much the same. Finally, transcendental meditation works to teach practitioners to transcend their normal consciousness by using a prayer-like mantra. The mantra is meant to block out distractions and gain mental clarity. The "right" one to use simply depends on preference.

Seniors aren't the only people to benefit from their meditation. The University of California Los Angeles conducted a study showed that caregivers who meditate alone or with their patients often feel less stressed when dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia patients. Bond with patients or simply help them ease their own pain by teaching an easy-to-remember mantra or breathing technique during your next caregiving shift. Learn more by contacting HomeHelpers®.