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As we age, our bodies become more vulnerable to illness, both mental and physical. Some of these conditions increase the likelihood of developing dementia. For example, 15-20% of seniors struggle with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition caused by deteriorating cells in the brain that is often seen in the onset of Alzheimer’s, one of the most common types of dementia. The symptoms of MCI vary, but tend to include forgetting important information like appointments and events and struggling to complete tasks because the steps necessary have been confused. An example of this might be someone who can’t clean their house because they can’t determine if vacuuming should come first or last, even though they may have been vacuuming last for years.
This sudden decline can be difficult to understand and witness, especially when the person suffering typically feels fine. However, it is possible to slow this process down. If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of MCI, there are strategies to help reduce your chances of a full-on dementia diagnosis. Of these, meditation has proven highly effective. To get started meditating, here are the facts and stats you need to know.
The Science Behind Meditation and Dementia
The causes of dementia are varied, but one consistent factor is the oxidation of brain cells. Oxidation of cells is a lot like oxidation of iron—i.e. the formation of rust on old locks and fences. Essentially, if your brain cells build up this layer of “rust,” they function less effectively. One way to combat this is to keep your brain active. Some ways to do this are through reading regularly, playing brain games, and through meditation. In fact, recent research shows that practicing mindfulness and meditation increases the connectivity in our brains and helps keep us sharp.
Tips to Begin Meditating
Meditation is less about having the tools for your practice and more about having the time. While some people incorporate things like bells, candles, music, and other elements into their meditative practice, ultimately, meditation is about consistency. When you practice every day you start to see results. But staying on top of this new habit isn’t always the easiest, here are some ideas to help you build a practice of meditation.
- It’s all about the breath.
The entire act of meditation is to focus on your breathing. Pay attention to how you’re breathing and practice taking long, deep fulfilling breaths. Any time your mind wanders from your breath, again bring it back to breathing. The idea is that when you return your focus, you’re activating your “attention” muscle. It’s this action that helps reap rewards for your memory.
- Ten minutes every day is better than 70 minutes once a week.
Studying your breath isn’t as simple as it may seem. For beginners, the practice can feel challenging and even boring. Instead of practicing meditation “quantity,” think about quality. Shorter, more consistent meditation is better than longer sessions as you grow your ability to maintain focus.
- Get comfortable.
There’s no reason why you should be uncomfortable during meditation—the whole point is to focus and who can focus when they’re sitting uncomfortably or on a hard floor? Find a cushion or comfortable chair for your practice, a rolled-up yoga mat also works.
- Use a timer.
The more attention you can give your breath the better, that’s why timers are so handy. If you can set it and forget it, you can better attend to your practice.
- Make it your own.
As you begin to practice consistently, you’ll find you have more time and space within your meditation to do things like set intentions or focus on goals rather than simply your breath. Don’t be afraid to use your practice as a space to affirm yourself and build your confidence too.
As we age, one of the best ways we can protect our brains is to simply use our brains in creative ways. In the case of seniors with dementia, meditation has proven positive effects, but meditation alone is not enough. Finding the funds to cover medical care in the wake of a dementia diagnosis isn’t easy but it certainly is possible. For example, if you or a senior loved one has a life insurance policy they no longer need, you have the option to engage in a life settlement or viatical settlement. You can sell all or a portion of your policy—even term life insurance—for greater than the cash surrender value. Contact us at life settlement advisors today for more information.
Case Study: Jeanette, a 92 year old widow, is unable to live independently due to her failing health. Her family has convinced her to move into an assisted living facility not far from Jeanette’s oldest daughter. Jeanette sold her life insurance policy for $98,000 to help pay for her new living arrangements.
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Download our free resource, Causes of a Dementia Diagnosis and the Early Warning Signs You Should Know, to educate yourself to spot dementia before it arrives.