Benefits of Yoga for Caregivers and Patients

  • July 16, 2014
Benefits of Yoga for Caregivers and Patients

It’s no secret that yoga has beneficial properties. People have been practicing the therapeutic form of stretching, breathing and meditating for thousands of years. And yet, we’re still learning new things about the value of yoga even today. According to a recently published joint study by researchers at the Health and Social Care Institute at Teesside University and the U.K. Alzheimer’s Society, yoga may offer meaningful health benefits to those affected by dementia.

The study points out though that these benefits aren’t just reserved for patients living with dementia. Yoga can offer positive health outcomes for their caregivers as well. According to the study, which was published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, yoga programs that allow both caregiver and patient to participate together can significantly ease the burden on both.

The Patient

In the struggle to help a patient live with dementia, very simple everyday tasks can become challenging. As a result, we may overlook the importance of also maintaining a regular exercise routine. As a caregiver, it falls upon you to ensure that your patient is getting the necessary dose of physical activity. Yoga can provide an instructor-guided, low impact experience that is readily adaptable to the needs of those with physical limitations.

ABC-of-Yoga points out that yoga can be an especially well-suited path to fitness for seniors as it can work to counteract conditions like arthritis or high blood pressure. But this form of activity offers additional benefits unique to those with dementia. The study reveals, for instance, that most study participants spoke positively of the social aspects of participation in a yoga class. Taking part in the meditating and stretching routines in the company of others gave many participants something to look forward to. This alone proved a valuable outcome, yielding improved mood and heightened mental activity.

The Caregiver

Every bit as important as finding therapies that bring comfort and clarity to the patient is taking steps to reduce the threat of caregiver burnout. For those who have taken on the sometimes rewarding but frequently taxing responsibilities of a primary caregiver—especially for a patient living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related conditions—emotional exhaustion is a real danger. You can only provide a high quality of care for another person if you are effectively caring for yourself.

The British study reveals that a shared yoga experience can not only bring the patient and caregiver closer together, but that it can also provide an outlet for relaxation and emotional release that a caregiver might not otherwise experience. As researchers point out, it is a lot easier for a caregiver to relax with the knowledge that the patient is in a similar state of relaxation.

The partnership has a similar impact on the patient, who may feel a sense of comfort by knowing that the caregiver is actively participating in the class.

Researchers note that the sample size for the study in question was modest and that a more expanded research undertaking would be appropriate. However, even in its current form, the study offers encouraging news about the value of holistic treatment approaches for seniors and caregivers living with dementia.

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