Supporting the Elderly… and the Ripple Effect

by Mary-Louise Myers

Whilst being a student of Universal Medicine I was employed by Tweed Valley Respite Service to be part of a team involved with a ”Care 4 U Holiday Program”. This was a government funded innovative program whereby elderly carers who cared for their partners with dementia were brought together in a holiday setting to have a rest, get support in the way of legal and financial advice, be updated on what assistance was available through different government agencies and get support for their wellbeing. I ran the groups to give them support for their general wellbeing and gave them individual hands on Esoteric Healing sessions. I would present a two hour group when they first arrived and another at the end of their stay.

Many of you may know how difficult it is to watch your loved one go down the path of dementia. It can be very painful and stressful to see the person you love not only get sick but also lose all memory of their relationship and their life with you. I would be fronted with a group of very elderly men and women (who mostly needed to be cared for themselves!!) that were more often than not very stressed, exhausted, depressed and confused as to why this was happening to them and their partners.

In these groups I introduced what I had learnt from Universal Medicine.

One of the techniques that supported them enormously was the gentle breath meditation, which is to close your eyes, be with yourself and begin to gently breathe in and out through your nose. I suggested that they do this in the morning and evening for 5 – 10 minutes and any time through the day when they felt to. I explained that this would enable them to begin to re-connect with themselves. And with this new found connection they would not react so much to their partners nor take on their emotional state.

Now a lot of these elderly people had been through the war or were farmers that had worked on the land all their lives, very down to earth people; so you can imagine when I first presented them with this technique that they were a bit sceptical. I would ask them to give it a go before they passed judgment on it and given it was only a short time it was realistic. Every time, and I mean every time, after they gave it a go they were amazed at how different they felt. They also found that in the ensuing week they did not take on their partners’ emotional state as easily as they had been and they were responding to difficult situations rather then getting all stressed and reactive.

For example, one elderly man would get upset, frustrated and angry every time his wife, who used to dress beautifully before she got dementia, would come out of her room with three pairs of underpants over her trousers and her tops on back to front etc. He learnt through this breathing technique to stay with himself, not react or get angry with her but simply let her be and encourage her to take the underpants off. He began to feel that the way he used to react was there to avoid his own pain of seeing and feeling how much his wife was not the same woman he had once married. Once he recognised this he was able to little bit by little bit feel his own pain, let it go and accept the illness his wife had. This is a major issue with a lot of the partners: they find it very difficult to accept that their partner has dementia and then they react to most of their behaviours, but once they start to accept it is much easier for them to deal with what comes up day to day. Another example is one woman who would always feel sad when her husband was sad and with being connected to her self she did not take on his sadness but remained with how she felt. And all this learning from a simple 5-10 minute meditation!

One of the other things that I had learnt from Universal Medicine and that I then introduced to these carers is that if you cannot care or nurture yourself then you are unable to truly care or nurture another. This again was a new thing to them, because most had been brought up being told “they were selfish” if they were to do something for themselves or that “you need to look after your sisters or brothers “, etc. So once I explained this principle it made sense to them but of course, a lifelong habit of putting everyone else first was hard to break, so I gave them some practical examples of how they could start to care for themselves. For example, having some time in the morning to go for a walk or some activity just for themselves before they started the day caring for their partner. You may think this is common sense and it is, but again, most of these elderly people had never learnt to put themselves first (nor had I until I came to Universal Medicine). They learnt that by doing this the quality of their care for their partners greatly improved.

I know that over the six years that I was part of this holiday program, these simple tools transformed many of their lives enormously. Not only did many carers share with me in the follow-up group before they left the program what a difference the breathing technique and other tools I had introduced had already made in their life, but I would see many of them in the ensuing years and the changes that they had put into place were truly inspiring.

During this time I witnessed that the support staff and management of the Care 4 U Holiday Program were also very stressed and again putting the needs of those they cared for before their own. Their own health and wellbeing were suffering because of this and so I started running groups for the staff of the Care 4 U Holiday Program, who also greatly benefitted and in turn started to change the way they worked. They got to experience that if they nurtured and cared for themselves first, they had more energy and a greater quality of care for their clients.

What I presented was common sense as are the teachings of Universal Medicine – very practical, down to earth and it works. And not only does it work, but it actually transforms people’s lives. In this instance, the carers, their partners and family benefitted greatly from these teachings as well as the support staff, their clients and their own families as they were no longer going home stressed and in reaction to their day.

70 thoughts on “Supporting the Elderly… and the Ripple Effect

  1. Taking on other people’s emotions and issues is physically draining and exhausting. It is something I have to be aware of all of the time as it has been a long held behaviour of mine. Making loving choices such as going for a walk, having a rest in the day, going to bed by 9pm and eating foods that support me, help me enormously to not react but also help me to understand and read what is going on.

    1. Same for me Caroline, I too have found if I take better care of myself by nurturing and listening to my body I am less likely to react to people and situations. It is a huge support to first look after ourselves because to try and do it the other way round simply leaves me feeling absolutely exhausted.

    2. So true and I definitely have more space to support others because I know I have supported myself so I am offering support from a full glass rather than an empty one.

    3. What I am also becoming aware of is making the choice to be with myself when I feel the emotions of others. I call it out usually to myself and observe, offering space to another to face or not to face what is coming up for them. I am finding that because I choose to observe allowing myself to read and not go into sympathy I do not take on another’s emotions.

  2. We never learn that taking on the emotions of others is actually really harming to us. I work in health and this is never presented. This is one of the simple teaching presented by Universal Medicine and the Gentle Breath Meditation supports this, so that we can stay with ourselves and simply observe what is going on for another rather than taking it on. Superbly simple and profound at the the same time.

  3. This is a very powerful tool to learn, that is to not react to our loved ones and or to people. We can get severely drained and exhausted when we react emotionally to others. When we choose to simply observe we are more able to support ourselves and others and to better handle difficult situations by staying connected to ourselves. Thank you Mary-Louise, this is a very supportive blog for us to read.

  4. Mary-Louise the simple, self-care techniques you presented had a profound effect on the staff and carers. It is interesting how so many believe they are being selfish when they care for themselves, when in fact we are able to give another quality care and support when we nurture ourselves first.

  5. I agree, the teachings that are presented by Universal Medicine is super simple and sometimes I have to remind myself how simple it is when I feel overwhelmed about something. Just being present with myself and how I move brings me back steadfast when I feel a bit out of sorts. Simple science.

  6. The most supportive thing for me about what Universal Medicine presents is the simplicity, practicality, and realness. None of it is ‘pie in the sky’, ‘out there’,’airy fairy’ stuff that requires you to believe in a picture painted by another. It is all common sense that can be felt as truth in my body.

  7. The teachings of Universal Medicine are simple (profound) and common sense. This just exposes as Universal Medicine presents the difference between being connected (via the gentle breath) and not, and therefore how there is actually two versions of common sense.

  8. What you’ve shared here Mary Louise flows and sounds so very simple – and that’s the thing, in essence it IS so simple. And yet the profundity of true change in people’s lives is enormous. Clearly, these were people whose lives were not easy, and they were having to deal with difficulties most of us would find challenging, let alone in one’s advancing years…
    To be able to deal with living with a partner who no longer behaves and expresses as the man or woman you may have known and loved most of your life, and who may place quite some demands upon you in your everyday, and have the tools to hold yourself, react less and embrace care for oneself whilst acting in a carer role for another – this is huge, and deeply inspiring.

  9. What permeates through your words here Mary-Louise is not only the depth of appreciation for all that Universal Medicine presents and offers, but also the quality and true equalness in which you held the people you worked with in this setting. It’s never too late to be able to re-discover a sense of steadiness, calm and a deepening ability to meet the challenges in one’s life. Never too late to learn about what happens when we don’t negate our own self-care, and put ourselves first. This is absolute gold. Thank-you.

  10. I can very much appreciate the support Mary-Louise offered on these programs for the elderly whose partners had dementia. When I was a child my grandmother who had dementia would move in with us one month in every three and I can remember it being quite a stressful time. Having the understanding what can happen to a close family member diagnosed with dementia can be very supportive for the carer. I know I have found reading Mary-Louise’s blog very supportive and confirming detailing some of the symptoms a person with dementia can endure.

  11. “What I presented was common sense as are the teachings of Universal Medicine – very practical, down to earth and it works. And not only does it work, but it actually transforms people’s lives.” The Gentle Breath Meditation and the teachings of Universal Medicine are a gift for humanity.

  12. Such a valuable offering to humanity and to the lovely people you where offering support to. This is such an important part of our society, the amount of care that people require is very high in society and to consider many people do this unsupported. I love the fact that as possibly their first introduction to meditation they where open, receptive and could feel the support such a simple choice to stop and connect to their own breath can make. A ripple effect that truly supports everyone’s well-being.

  13. So simple, yet so profound in it’s effect on peoples lives are the teachings of Universal Medicine The Gentle Breath Meditation and self care. A beautiful sharing, thank you Mary-Louise.

  14. In a relationship people get confirmed. When someone goes into the path of dementia, this person cannot keep confirming anybody else and confirming him/her as it happened before becomes very difficult too. This calls for a change. It is not about confirming another as a human being any longer. It is about confirming them as divine beings they are. In that sense, hands on healing is a true gift.

  15. “And with this new found connection they would not react so much to their partners nor take on their emotional state.” This is huge. Taking on others people’s stuff is poison for both us as individuals but also for the whole system itself. If this could be taught to every nursing centre and basically everywhere where you work with people, which is everywhere I guess, then common health would improve beyond measure.

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