Living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can be difficult on both patients and their caregivers. A new study suggests that a “holistic” program involving yoga, meditation and other interventions can ease the burden for both. Study lead author, Yvonne J-Lyn Khoo, a researcher with the Health and Social Care Institute at Teesside University in Middlesbrough, U.K., says, “This is an activity that caregivers and patients can do together. Because everyone is doing the program together, caregivers have peace of mind to at least allow themselves to ‘let go’ and do some exercise.”
The small study included eight patients with dementia, five of their caregivers, and two research volunteers, all ranging in age from 52 to 86 years. Over the course of the six week study, 70 percent completed all six 45-minute sessions. The sessions included combination of group discussion, stretching, bending, breathing exercises, tai chi, yoga, meditation, qigong and dance, Khoo explained.
In post-program interviews, all participants said the program helped them become more social, and they looked forward to each session. Patients with dementia said, “I feel better after it,” while another patient stated, “Good company, nice people. Feeling part of a team.” Caregivers said the exercises “help me to relax, just [have] a feeling of well-being afterwards,” and, “Everyone is enjoying themselves, which is what we come for.”
Khoo said, “Caregivers themselves also feel supported throughout the sessions. On the other hand, the presence of the caregiver is reassuring to the patient, and this feeling of security and familiarity supports the exercise environment.”