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When a senior is no longer able to perform daily tasks safely on their own, a caregiver is the person who steps in and takes care of those responsibilities. Caregivers can be formal (paid) or informal (unpaid). Informal caregivers are typically family members caring for their senior relative, a situation that is very common in this country.
Caregiving isn’t easy. It can take an emotional toll on a person, especially if they are watching someone they love lose their agency. Furthermore, the shift in roles, financial pressure, isolation, guilt, lack of free time, and simply the demands of having to provide constant care for someone can all lead to caregiver stress. This long-term stress can manifest in unhealthy ways such as depression, anxiety, weight gain, brain fog, a weakened immune system, and a higher risk for chronic disease. Fortunately, there are solutions for preventing and alleviating some of these concerns for seniors and their caregivers, which MFW Consultants presents below.
Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Seniors
Meditation and yoga are incredibly beneficial for both seniors and their caregivers. Yoga provides gentle exercise that helps people feel more stable in their day-to-day lives as it improves balance and strength. Certain poses enhance flexibility and strength. Focused breathing improves lung capacity and increases oxygen intake. A regular practice helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It helps the body maintain a healthy weight while improving digestion and elimination. People who practice yoga sleep better, feel less anxiety, and are better able to deal with stress.
While yoga offers mental health benefits, it can also promote better dental health. It’s been shown that depression can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, pain, and jaw problems. Yoga can reduce stress and make people who practice it feel more motivated to take good care of their teeth. It can also take tension away from their jaw muscles.
Yoga incorporates aspects of meditation and thus also has its benefits, but adding a meditation practice on top of yoga can be very helpful for seniors and their caregivers. Meditation’s benefits are backed by science and can truly help people who are suffering with age-related mental illness or caregiver stress. Meditation reduces stress and teaches you how to deal with anxiety. It is key to optimal emotional health. People who meditate are more self-aware. It’s also very good for the brain and can lengthen attention span while delaying age-related memory loss. Meditation can help improve sleep, control pain, and decrease blood pressure. It infuses a person’s life with mindfulness and the happiness that comes with that.
When beginning your practice, it’s a good idea to do so under the tutelage of a yoga instructor. An instructor can teach you correct form and posture, and you should always inform them of any injuries or soreness you’re dealing with. As a senior, you may already have access to free yoga classes in your area through your Medicare Advantage plan. Some providers often include membership to SilverSneakers in their MA plans.
Setting Up a Space at Home
One of the benefits of practicing yoga is that it can be an at-home routine that can be done indoors. You can even use a yoga video or fitness app to facilitate your practice. Having a dedicated space in the home for yoga and meditation can be helpful. A meditation room should be in a part of the house where you feel comfortable and where you are far away from traffic flow. It should be easy to access, preferably on the first floor. A window with a view of nature or a garden would be a nice touch, but it’s not necessary. Low lighting is good for meditation spaces. Any light that does come in should preferably be natural, but using soft bulbs in lamps can also create a cozy effect. When it comes down to it, whatever makes you feel most comfortable is best.
A meditation room should be completely clutter-free. Clutter doesn’t just make a room look messy; it causes stress and anxiety. A cluttered room is a cluttered mind, and that’s basically the opposite of what you want from this practice. Decor should be simple. Consider adding a personal touch, such as a water feature, houseplant, or aromatherapy tools you can use to create atmosphere when meditating.
Caregiving for a senior is a wonderful thing to do, but it comes with its difficulties and stresses. Yoga and meditation are two practices that can help seniors and their caregivers lead happier and healthier lives. While yoga provides gentle exercise, having a separate meditation practice at home can really help with caregiver stress and the emotional/mental tolls that come with aging.
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