Supporting the Elderly… and the Ripple Effect

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.

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

  1. Great blog Mary-Louise, and inspiring to hear how introducing a few small, easy – and free – techniques supported people to learn to deal with and address what they were feeling, and stay steadier within themselves. The more I learn to look after myself, the more I realise how un-selfish this is – quite the opposite. Unless I’m truly taking care of myself, then how can I support anyone else or bring any quality to what I do? And when I really neglect myself, I become a burden on others, and on the health services.

  2. Great sharing Mary-Louise – it shows how something so simple like the Gentle Breath Meditation, as presented by Universal Medicine, can be life changing. We are led to think we need to care of others 1st but as you say if we 1st do not take care of ourselves what state are we in and what quality of care do we then offer others?

  3. It is such a simple premise, care for yourself and the quality of care for another is better, and I agree Mary-Louise, it is one of many common sense practical tools that Universal Medicine has given me to go away and work on should I wish, and I found it has transformed how I live my life, certainly less reactive and more consistent in my day to day.

  4. Beautiful Mary Louise, both in what you share and what you have taken to the community. I love the phrase “I would ask them to give it a go before they passed judgment on it”. What a simple suggestion.

  5. The principles of Universal Medicine are so simple and easy to apply and can transform lives as you share here Mary-Louise. They really need to be shared much more widely as they truly work and thus benefit all.

  6. It is great to read how life changing something as simple as the Gentle Breath Meditation can be, it gives us an awareness of being able to observe and not react in life.

  7. The benefits of the Gentle Breath Meditation in this story prove that true meditation is about connecting back to ourselves and not about going on a journey to anywhere via our mind, escaping in other words. And it also proves that there is absolutely no need to sit for hours on end and be uncomfortable which are all distracting from true connection.

  8. This is fantastic, I know you have written a blog about it but wondered was there a survey or something done as well that measured these changes and although you are not running these groups anymore is someone else? With the GP’s, hospitals, clinics etc getting bogged down, stressed and financially bankrupt we desperately need things in place like this about true well-being, self-care, self-love and nurturing and …. this doesn’t cost a thing (or hardly anything) compared with the benefits that are seen. The templates Universal Medicine have with regards to self-care, palliative care, supporting cancer patients etc are truly amazing and are templates/models we can all use and put into place within our own communities.

  9. I just love reading this blog and hearing of the changes that people made in their lives as a result of being supported to re-connect more and care more deeply for themselves. And what a ripple effect this has – radiating out to support all those around them too.

  10. Mary-Louise, thank you for sharing this, ‘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’, I agree, thanks to the presentations of Universal Medicine I have learnt some very practical tools that have been life changing for me. I love the simplicity of what is presented at these courses and workshops. The most life-changing things for me have been having rhythm in my life; going to bed early which feels amazing; not reacting to everything and everyone and taking things personally; feeling a love and acceptance for myself and seeing and feeling my own beauty – pretty amazing changes.

  11. Caring for another without caring for oneself is just impossible, but we’ve all tried it anyway. Considering how sicker and older the entire population all over the world seems to be getting, I reckon there are many programs around to support the carers, and what you have shared here is so inspiring and it’s just amazing how a very simple technique such as Gentle Breath Meditation can make a big difference. And I have a feeling that getting a taste of re-connecting with our true quality prepares us for the inevitable passing over of our loved ones, as well as our own.

  12. Beautiful Mary-Louise. Universal Medicine shares with us a way to live that offers joy and well-being in our everyday lives and it is then for us to share this with the world. It is a powerful ripple.

  13. Mary-Louise, this is amazing, I can feel how lost we can get when we put others first and how if we re-connect to ourselves that we can not be affected by others and then are able to truly support ourselves and others, I have found and observed that it does not work if we put others first and do not care about ourselves.

  14. What you offer us here is an amazing support for people in a very challenging situation. It is such a blessing to be given a tool that is so practical and gives you the space to feel who you are. I can’t imagine being in that situation and watching someone I love deteriorate in front of my eyes. We are not really made aware of how many people are affected by this condition.

  15. Some simple tools to support people to live everyday, sounds great. We often look for huge change in an instant and are disappointed when that expectation isn’t met. Are these things like say saving for something? You don’t just wake up with a huge amount in your bank account but you get there by doing a little bit often. What I am saying here is that don’t have an expectation on how things should be but get support or at least start supporting yourself in the smaller things often. This consistency will bring or build over time and it becomes a natural part of your life. This article mentions some great support tips and the Gentle Breath Meditation is one of them. If you were to do this for a little time everyday it would make a huge difference. We often look as I said for something big to change how we are feeling but what if all we needed to do was support ourselves truly so we could deal with what was happening another way?

  16. The Gentle Breath Meditation and a presentation on self nurturing are great tools to offer anyone . . .”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.” . . . Beautiful Mary-Louise!

  17. Caring for carers is a great initiative. The quality a carer can provide can be preserved since it is of no value a carer that has no capacity to care. If carers cannot care, what happens to those they take care of?

  18. Once we start to truly care for ourselves, much changes for us and everybody else around us; it is a true ripple effect that brings with it honesty and much needed answers instead of quick fix and solutions.

  19. What Universal Medicine presents around self-care and self-love does truly work as you have shared here Mary-Louise, making more loving choices benefits us greatly but also provides a powerful reflection for others to feel inspired and supported by.

  20. It’s such a deeply ingrained behaviour to put others needs before our own needs, yet as you say when we nurture ourselves the quality of our care is even greater. For me this is an equality issue, that we ourselves deserve the same level of care and quality of life as everyone else.

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