On Mindfulness and Dementia


Have you heard of mindfulness meditation? It is about being present, to be wholly concentrated and aware of the present moment instead of having your thoughts winging off somewhere else whilst you’re doing something else.

Practising mindfulness has helped me be a better listener – to focus on the person and what’s being said, to be less judgemental, and to concentrate.

When I drive, I sometimes turn off the radio and just… drive. I try not to let my mind float but to focus on the activity of driving itself. Apart from being more aware of my car and the vehicles around me, I hear so much more. There is the sound of the wind blowing, and the sound of the wheels on the road. I notice the color of the sky, the road, the road divider, the buildings beside the road. I just drive, and notice so many things I would not have paid any attention to.

To my amazement, practising mindfulness has helped bring me peace. I become aware of the world that is, and not the world I wish it were.

I’ve noticed somewhat belatedly that Mom is mindful. When she makes a cup of tea, she is fully concentrated on every step of the process. Taking her cup, getting the tea bag, putting the tin back, pouring hot water, getting the spoon, and the bottle of sugar. Putting things back. Every movement is thought through and deliberate. She thinks of nothing else other than making that cup of tea as she is making it.

Mom is practising mindfulness, everyday, every moment that she is awake. Perhaps dementia has robbed her of the ability to hold many thoughts at once, and she holds just the one thought, that of the present moment. Or perhaps her years of studying and learning concentration and focus is helping her to cope now despite her dementia.

I believe that if one were to practise mindfulness before dementia set in, it would mitigate the dementia symptoms. Something to think about.

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10 thoughts on “On Mindfulness and Dementia”

    1. That’s interesting. I first heard the idea in Christine Bryden’s book on her journey with young onset dementia – she spoke about the difficulty making tea, and having to concentrate on it intensely.

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  1. It makes you rethink our judgments about what is “mental health”. Being able to live in awareness of the present moment is not a disease, it’s a “symptom of wellness”, as my partner Steve likes to say.

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    1. It is, indeed. Not easy to achieve even amongst the “well”. In Mom’s case, I am convinced the medication has helped her achieve more than she would have without it.
      Still, there is a big difference between making tea while chatting animatedly, and making tea slowly and deliberately. I guess there is a time for each way.

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  2. I love your idea. Yes, we should practice mindfulness meditation because our world is so bogged down with noise: adverts, traffic, people on cellphones etc. I’m sure the brain screams for a rest. You just gotta stop and smell the roses. S-lo-w d-o-w-n.

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  3. I agree wholeheartedly! I’m reading a few books on it as well as taking a class. It helps to learn it with guidance. This is one of my coping mechanisms for living with a family member with dementia. One of the things I’ve learned is from the science on it is that mindfulness meditation does attune or develop the parts of the brain that can be affected by dementia. Thus it’s unlikely that practice can reverse it – but if those areas are more developed to begin with, one might keep more of one’s functions for a longer period of time. The lesson there seems to be start a mindful practice before something like dementia occurs!

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