by Mary-Louise Myers, Esoteric Practitioner, Goonallabah NSW
From 2003 through 2009 I worked in a program designed to ‘Care for Carers’. This was an innovative program whereby elderly full-time carers who looked after partners with dementia were brought together in a holiday setting to have a rest, obtain support in the way of legal and financial advice, be updated on what assistance was available through different government agencies, and receive support for their wellbeing. I ran groups that offered them support for their general wellbeing and I also offered 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. The second group gave them an opportunity to share the changes that they had already put in place and get any further support if needed before they went back home.
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 confronted with a group of very elderly men and women (who mostly needed to be cared for themselves!!), who were more often than not very stressed, exhausted, depressed and confused as to why this was happening to them and their partners.
A few years into running these groups I shared a simple 10 minute meditation technique that I learned at a Universal Medicine course.
This short meditation, called the ‘gentle breath meditation’, supported them enormously. The technique calls on you to close your eyes, be present with yourself, and then 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 at any time through the day when they felt to, explaining that this would enable them to begin to re-connect with themselves; and with this newfound 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 somewhat 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 for them to try. 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 partner’s emotional state as easily as they had been, and they were responding to difficult situations rather than 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 learned through this breathing technique to stay present 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, little bit by little bit, to 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 so they react to most of their behaviours… but once they start to accept the fact 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; after achieving connection with herself she did not take on his sadness but remained with how she felt. All this stemming from a simple 5-10 minute meditation!
Another thing I had learned from Universal Medicine and that I then shared with these carers was about the importance of caring for and nurturing yourself – in order to be able to truly care for and 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. 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 other 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 learned to put themselves first (nor had I until I came to UniMed). They learnt that by doing this the quality of their care for their partners greatly improved.
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 lives, 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 observed that the support staff and management of the carers’ program were also very stressed, and again were putting the needs of those they cared for before their own. Their own health and wellbeing was suffering because of this, and so I started running groups for the staff of the program who also greatly benefitted, and in turn started to change the way they worked. They were able 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 shared was common sense; no different to the teachings of Universal Medicine, which presents very practical, down to earth tools that, if applied, really do work. And not only do they work, but they actually transform people’s lives. In this instance, the carers, their partners and their families benefitted greatly from these teachings, and so did the support staff, their clients and their own families as they were no longer going home stressed and in reaction to their day.
The changes in the people I worked with over the six years I was there were truly inspiring and a testament to their commitment to choosing to care for themselves, in seemingly simple ways, that nevertheless made big changes in their lives.