Practicing yoga significantly reduces the stress and depression that typically strikes Alzheimer’s patient caregivers, new research shows.
Spouses, children, relatives and others who care for the nation’s estimated 5.4 million Alzheimer’s patients face a much greater risk than others of suffering from stress, depression, loneliness, exhaustion and fear, studies have shown. And care for the caregivers is sometimes difficult to provide.
But researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles found practicing yoga and brief meditation sessions daily can ease such symptoms and slow age-related declines in mental abilities caregivers often experience.
The study, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, noted as the U.S. population ages in coming decades, the number of Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers will skyrocket.
"On average, the incidence and prevalence of clinical depression in family dementia caregivers approaches 50 percent,” said lead researcher Dr. Helen Lavretsky. “Caregivers are also twice as likely to report high levels of emotional distress."
Those factors may put them at an increased rate of heart disease and mortality, she added.
For the UCLA study, Lavretsky and her colleagues recruited 49 family caregivers -- aged 45 to 91 years -- including 36 adult children and 13 spouses. The participants were divided into two groups. One was taught a brief, 12-minute yoga practice that included meditation, which was performed every day. The other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music on also for 12 minutes every day.
After two months, the researchers found that the yoga-meditation group had significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms and greater improvement in mental functioning, compared with the group that listened to music. In the meditation group, 65 percent showed a 50 percent improvement in depression symptoms, compared to 31 percent for the music listeners.
“Our study suggests a simple, low-cost yoga program can enhance coping and quality of life for the caregivers," the researchers concluded.