Reduces chronic stress among family caregivers

O’Donnell, R. M. M. (2013). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as an Intervention Among Family Caregivers of Persons with Neurocognitive Disorders. Master’s thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona. Full text.

Providing care for a frail older adult who is suffering from dementia has been described as a stressful experience that may erode psychological well-being and physical health of caregivers. The burden and stress is increased when the caregivers are themselves elderly.

The present study investigated the effectiveness of an 8-week stress-reduction program, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), among middle-aged and older family caregivers of persons with neurocognitive disorders, compared with a similarly structured, alternative intervention based on progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

Participants were randomly assigned to either MBSR or PMR (n = 28). The MBSR group showed significantly greater reductions in self-reported levels of depression and isolation from pre- to post-intervention, and those changes remained significant at 8 weeks post-intervention. Both groups showed similar decreases in levels of perceived stress, awakening cortisol levels, cortisol awakening response and daily average cortisol, and in resting systolic blood pressure from pre- to post-intervention. Both groups also reported similar increases in levels of mindfulness and self-compassion.

Significant correlations with amount of daily practice of the instructed stress-reduction approaches were observed for several of the dependent measures. Results suggest that MBSR and relaxation-based interventions may both be effective in reducing psychological and physiological indices of chronic stress among older caregivers of relatives with neurocognitive disorders. However, further research, employing waitlist control participants will be necessary for unambiguous interpretation of the present results.