A Pilot Investigation of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Caregivers of Frail Elderly
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Family caregivers may experience psychiatric symptoms associated with the chronic stress of caring for frail elderly. Mindfulness training may mitigate some of the negative health effects related to caregiving, but the relevant literature is sparse. We present data from a small pilot study of mindfulness training for caregivers of frail elderly. Nine women caregivers between the ages of 48 to 73 participated. Eight weekly classes of mindfulness-based stress reduction were minimally adapted to enhance the potential benefits for caregivers. Measures of depressive symptoms, burden, perceived stress, anxiety, general health, and mindfulness were assessed at baseline, at completion of the intervention, and at a 1-month follow-up. Self-reported depression, perceived stress, and burden decreased during the 8-week intervention with further reduction demonstrated after a 1-month follow-up regarding stress and burden while depressive symptoms returned to baseline level. Mindful attention and calmness increased over the course of the study. Qualitatively, participants reported continued use of acquired skills and personal benefits from the training. These preliminary results are supportive of the development of larger controlled trials of mindfulness training for caregivers. Future studies may consider identifying subpopulations of caregivers most likely to benefit from mindfulness, and the potential need for a continuation phase of active group participation following the 8-week training.
KeywordsCaregiving Depression Elderly Mindfulness Stress
Portions of the data reported in this paper were presented at two annual meetings: the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, New Orleans, LA, March 2007 and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society, Worcester, MA, April 2007. Butler Hospital and the Jewish Home and Hospital supported this investigation.
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