Meditation May Ease Depression in Dementia Caregivers

Article excerpt

HONOLULU - Twenty minutes per day of either meditation or relaxation improved depression scores in family caregivers of people with dementia, but meditation seemed to provide additional benefits in a randomized, controlled pilot study in 39 caregivers.

Mental functioning and cognition scores improved significantly in the meditation group, compared with the relaxation group, Dr. Helen Lavretsky and Dr. Michael Irwin reported in a poster presentation. Both are professors of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The meditation group (23 caregivers) and the relaxation group (16 caregivers) both averaged 61 years of age. They had been caring for a family member with dementia for 5 years and 4 years, respectively. Participants in the relaxation group spent significantly more time per week in caregiving, averaging 63 hours vs. 48 in the meditation group. Hamilton Rating Scale-Depression (HAM-D) scores at baseline were 11.8 in the meditation group and 11.4 in the relaxation group.

Participants in the meditation group were trained in a yoga practice of meditation called Kirtan Kriya that involves chanting, breath work, and finger poses. Participants in the control group were asked to rest quietly while listening to relaxation recordings. Each group devoted 20 minutes per day to the activity for 8 weeks.

In both groups, devoting time each day to self-care was new to participants, all but two of whom were women, Dr. Lavretsky said in an interview.

HAM-D scores improved by 7 points in the meditation group and by 5 points in the relaxation group, a difference that was not statistically significant. The perceived burden of care improved in both groups.

In the meditation group, however, 52% showed at least a 50% improvement on the 36-item short form health survey (SF-36) global mental health score, compared with 19% in the relaxation group, which was a significant difference. …