As a caregiver, you may have days when you feel more like crying than laughing. You may feel pretty “humorless” at times when errands pile up, you spend hours waiting in doctors’ offices and you’re just exhausted. But, most caregivers find there are also bright days in caring, as well as some pretty funny moments.
Being able to laugh and find the humor in caregiving is not only a great coping mechanism to deal with the stress, but it’s also great for your health. As we approach National Humor Month which starts with April Fool’s Day, it’s a great time to think about the positive impact humor can have on a caregiver and care recipient.
Here are a few ways that laughter really is the best medicine:
- Laughter can increase blood flow and heart rate and can mimic the effects of exercise.
- Some studies have shown the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost levels of immune cells. And, of course, increased stress is associated with reduced immune defense, so anything that helps reduce stress is potentially useful to the immune system.
- Laughter relaxes the body. For this reason, it can help with sleep and pain relief (laughter releases endorphins, the body’s “feel good” chemicals).
Here are a few tips for incorporating humor in to caregiving:
- Consider watching some comedy movies, sitcoms or listening to comedians’ recordings with your care recipient. YouTube is a great resource for free videos! Type in almost any subject and find funny videos of all kinds, plus clippings of old shows. If you enjoyed the Seinfeld Show and recall an episode on a particular topic, there’s sure to be a clip on YouTube. The same goes for favorite comedians like Bill Cosby. Here are a couple good ones you might appreciate: Jerry Seinfeld on Florida drivers and Seinfeld and “the old man” (Jerry volunteers to visit an elderly person–absolutely hysterical for anyone who’s ever run in to a slightly grumpy care recipient or worked in home health care).
- Encourage your loved one’s sense of humor and help set an environment of levity. Friends and family often don’t know how to interact when serious health issues are at stake. They may feel it’s inappropriate to laugh or make any jokes. Lighten the atmosphere yourself by sharing a funny story. If your loved one has a good sense of humor, encourage it. This can shine through even in a person with late stage dementia. Years ago, one of our clients used to make sharp jokes and was quite a prankster. Even when her words were jumbled in the late stages of dementia, her eyes would light up and she would laugh often when she said something. We always laughed along with her and imitated her tone and feelings. She had many bright moments and it was certainly a pleasant experience as a caregiver or visitor to have that feeling in the room.
- Seek out books, sites and people who encourage the brighter side of caregiving. One of our favorite books in this category is Mothering Mother by Carol O’Dell, about her caregiving journey with her mother who had Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. The story is touching and will also make you laugh out loud. Though Carol would probably dispute the description, she serves as a great role model for caregivers and shows how humor can get you through the day and the longer journey. Sites like agingcare.com offer places for caregivers to share stories, including the funny moments. Just google “humor and caregiving” and you’ll find some great sites and resources.
- Did you know there are laughter clubs and laughter yoga classes? Check out World Laughter Tour for more information (they even have a resource right in St. Pete, Florida) or Laughter Yoga. Could make for a fun outing!
We’d love to hear from you! What are your tips for incorporating humor in to caregiving? What’s your funniest story from caregiving? Does your care recipient frequently crack you up? Please come on over to EasyLiving’s Facebook page now and throughout Humor Month to share and find some of our “favorite funnies”!