Mindfulness – An Inner Resource
by Kathleen Landel, MA,
PAC Certified Trainer, Consultant, and Mentor
We are living in uncertain times. This is a terrain that those of us supporting someone living with dementia know very well. We know that there are peaks and valleys. Times of quiet joy and overwhelming sorrow. Moments when we feel frightened and unsettled. In this unprecedented time, can we see this as an invitation to develop an unknown strength and tap an inner resource?
Right in this moment, stay where you are. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. One breath; in and out. Slowly. And again; in and out. A third time; in and out. What did you notice? Relaxation? Tension release in your muscles? A calming of your nervous system?
Scientific studies are beginning to document that this small mindfulness practice is working to regulate your stress response and strengthen your immune system. This is a practice we can start now with the resources that we have.
To build this new practice into a habit, start with small steps. First, pick a regular activity you do every day, like brushing your teeth or sitting down with your first cup of tea. Tag onto this activity a brief moment to close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Take this time to just focus on your breath and notice how your body feels.
To expand your practice, set your timer for five minutes and find a quiet place to close your eyes and breathe. You might want to tap into an on-line or app-based mindfulness practice tool like Insight Timer or Headspace.
The Presence Care Project is a mindfulness-based program designed specifically to meet the unique challenges of dementia care. Try out their free on-line audio links for 5-minute, 15-minute and 30-minute guided mindfulness practices. You can also find audio links for mindfulness practice on the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center website.
For a spiritual and heartfelt story, read Ten Thousand Joys & Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle. Follow Olivia and Hob, as two longtime mindfulness teachers, who lived through his dementia diagnosis drawing on their mindfulness practice.
If you are looking for step-by-step support, try Caring for a Loved One with Dementia: A Mindfulness-Based Guide for Reducing Stress and Making the Best of Your Journey Together by Marguerite Maneau-Rao, LCSW. This very readable and practical book is a great companion to using your PAC knowledge and skills. You’ll find echoes of PAC language in how mindfulness allows you to offer the best possible care by focusing on being versus task-driven, responding instead of reacting, and developing awareness of the person living with dementia.
At times like these, let’s support each other in tapping into our inner resources. We can all start now. Take that moment to breathe – by ourselves and with each other.
Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials – Click here
Study finds link between meditation, the endocrine system, health, and well-being – Click here
Kathleen, an aspiring-to-be-disciplined mindfulness practitioner, is hosting the first virtual gathering of her monthly meditation group that has feasted and meditated together for over 30 years. She earned a Master of Arts in Whole Systems Design from Antioch University in Seattle, WA., with a focus on community-level systems change. As a PAC Mentor she draws on her experience as a strategy consultant and facilitator to health and human services nonprofits. Kathleen’s personal journey as a care partner for parents living with dementia, was transformed when she met Teepa. Since becoming a PAC Certified Trainer and Consultant, Kathleen has partnered with senior centers and the libraries in her rural Northwest community to offer PAC workshops for family care partners and professionals.