Mindfulness, wholeness and positive imagery were the main themes of the July 16 Conversations with Caregivers program, “Recovering wholeness: How caregivers can benefit from guided imagery.” The program was one in an education series, sponsored by the Dementia Caregiver Support Program of the Division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine, that provides educational resources and support for caregivers, family, staff or patients who are navigating the path of caring for a loved one with dementia.

“Our roles merge and change over a lifetime,” said Felipe Jain, MD, director of Healthy Aging Studies in the MGH Depression Clinical and Research Program. “Patients become caregivers. Caregivers become patients. When a loved one is sick, the caregiving goes in one direction and can become asymmetrical and stressful. That stress can become toxic to the mind and body.”

Jain discussed the techniques of Mentalizing Imagery Therapy, a type of guided imagery and mindfulness. By practicing these techniques, a person can gain perspective and control over internal images – such as a distressing conversation being replayed in one’s mind – so these images, memories or scenarios are not as upsetting. He also discussed the concept of wholeness as mindfully taking a more complete perspective – understanding not only one’s own thoughts, feelings and needs, but understanding those of others in challenging situations. This can help caregivers provide better care for the patient and for themselves.

“Guided imagery uses all our senses so that we may instead generate positive images, among the maelstrom of negative ones, that help us soothe ourselves,” Jain says. “Wholeness can promote a sense of understanding yourself, your mind, others’ minds and the environment in which you live.”

For more information about the Dementia Caregiver Support Program, contact DementiaCaregiverSupport@mgh.harvard.edu

Read more articles from the 07/26/19 Hotline issue.