Caregivers of persons with dementia are a considerably understudied segment of the population. Caregiver burden is widely recognized and characterized by an increased risk for stress-related disorders and illness, including depression, sleep disorder, and cognitive impairment. Employing a randomized controlled trial, this study examined the effect of mindfulness training on cognitive function and psychological wellbeing in caregivers of persons with neurodegenerative disease. Caregivers were randomized to an 8-week mindfulness-training group or a psychoeducation group (i.e. gold standard). Pre- and post-assessment includes completion of a cognitive testing battery and psychosocial measures of wellbeing. Compared to the psychoeducation group, caregivers in the mindfulness training group displayed increased performance in episodic memory and greater decline in general perceived stress and depressive symptoms. In order to further disentangle the effects of the program compared with standard respite care, a third arm is currently being conducted. This research is important as it suggests mindfulness as a viable program for caregivers of persons with neurodegenerative disease, a segment of the population that is rising in the context of an aging population. Qualitative data collected will provide insight into the development of a mindfulness program tailored to caregivers of persons with dementia and neurodegenerative disease.
Dr. Alexandra J. Fiocco is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Ryerson University and is Director of the Stress and Healthy Aging Research Laboratory in Toronto. She … MORE