Daily News Journal, August 9, 2014
When a family member caring for a loved one afflicted with dementia is relieved even temporarily from that responsibility, that caregiver will experience a biological response that reduces stress and contributes to better long-term health.
According to studies at Penn State University and the University of Texas at Austin, relief from exhaustive caregiving responsibilities causes the body to release DHEA, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland that controls the harmful effects of other stress-inducing hormones.
“These findings suggest that the use of adult day care services may protect caregivers against the harmful effects of stress associated with giving care to someone with dementia,” explained Professor Steven Zarit, one of the researchers at Penn State.
Caregiver Robin Maddox is not a student of biology, but she knows firsthand that her life is much less stressful since she started taking her 81-year-old grandmother to Mindful Care Adult Day Services about a month and a half ago.
“It has given me my life back,” she says of Mindful Care. “I’m able to be a mother again and a good wife. It used to be that by the time my kids came home in the evening, I was so exhausted and drained mentally that I wasn’t myself anymore.”
Mindful Care is a program held Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at New Vision Baptist Church on Thompson Lane. A small professional staff and volunteers welcome as many as nine elderly participants daily and help them exercise their cognitive skills through storytelling, puzzles, arts and crafts, games and other activities.
Before Mindful Care, Maddox was caring for her grandmother, Melva Gene Reed, 50 hours a week, from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. everyday.
“I’m usually a happy person. But working 50 hours a week as a caregiver brings you down, it makes you depressed and feel isolated. You feel like you’re all alone and it’s all on you. People don’t understand it unless they are going through it,” she said. “My husband would come home and listen to me complain. It altered our lives and really put a burden on our marriage.”
Melva developed Alzheimer’s four years ago.
The family brought Melva to Murfreesboro. Even though she lives with Robin’s mother, the caretaking role fell to Maddox because her mother had to keep working.
Maddox says she takes Melva to Mindful Care three days a week. “She tells me about the stories she hears and what games they played. She looks forward to going. She takes better care of how she looks. Now she picks out her outfits the day before she goes to ‘social club.’ She loves the program.”
Occasionally Melva can become hostile, Maddox notes, but ever since Mindful Care, she is more positive.
Maddox says being able to take her grandmother to Mindful Care is “like gold.”
“It’s changed my life,” she says. “I’m able to stay positive even if I have a bad Monday because I know she will go to ‘social club’ tomorrow. It’s like day and night
To learn more about Mindful Care Adult Day Services, please visit mindful-care.org or call 615-542-4371. Visitors and volunteers are welcome.