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.