Taking care of someone with dementia can be highly stressful. You’ll likely see and experience a lot of crazy things. Sometimes you can’t help but laugh. And, you should laugh. Humor can help you cope with caregiver stress. Several studies have examined how caregivers use humor as an effective coping mechanism. Another example comes from a study of terminal cancer patients, in which the majority said maintaining a sense of humor was as important as being pain-free.
So, in light of the ways humor can help us cope with dementia caregiving, we bring you some dementia humor. These are some things caregivers have shared with us that their Moms with dementia have said. Others we’ve heard from clients, via caregivers, or online. We hope they bring a smile to your face. It’s okay to laugh, it is not meant disrespectfully. Often, it can be just what you need in the face of the situation.
1. Dementia word mixup
When we came to visit, Mom opened the door with aplomb and said, “Welcome to my humble commode!”
A person with dementia often has trouble finding the right words. As a matter of fact, it is often one of the first symptoms of dementia. Sometimes what comes out can be quite hilarious. And, many times your Mom will laugh at the mixup too. Just another way that humor can benefit everyone involved.
Mom was rifling around in her closet one day and I asked her what she was doing. Exasperated, she said “I’m trying to find my sham dirt!” It took me a minute to figure out that she meant to say “damn shirt”. When she saw my puzzled look she started laughing.
3. The wrong frequently used word
I was telling my woeful tale about not getting a work promotion to Mom one day. She said “If it’s any constipation, the promotion sounds like a lot of work for no real benefit. Have you thought about sending out your résumé?” She had no idea she’d mixed up the words, but I couldn’t stop giggling. It took me a few minutes to catch my breath to explain. Then, even better, she said, “Well, that’s one of the more commonly used words around here so you can understand.”
4. Aww, that’s so sweet…for the dog
We were having a heartfelt moment once. Mom was thanking me for helping her. She said, “Thanks for everything you do for me. You are a good dog.” Well, she really loves her dog, so I’ll take it!
5. When you don’t remember, but still know how to rhyme
Here’s another example of forgetting words from funny stories from caregivers online. Some people get creative when they can’t remember.
I was kneeling beside Mom’s bed last night when she was saying her bedtime prayer. This night she prayed, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the LORD my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray he takes me like an earthquake.” Instead of …”my soul to take”. I said “what?” Mom laughed and said, “well, I couldn’t remember the rest and …well, it rhymed” ! ~ Amen!
6. Mistaken identity
Mom frequently gets our identities confused. The first time it happened, I took it personally. But, then I learned to go with it and just laugh. She often calls my son by her husband’s name and even uses endearing terms, which can be a bit awkward. However, he takes it with a grain of salt. The funniest time was when she told my sister a whole story about the events of the day. However, she used my five-year old daughter’s name instead of mine. My sister started to chuckle as she pictured my daughter driving Mom around town.
7. A sassy client: dementia won’t stop her
A care manager shares a story about a client.
She had a good sense of humor, always laughing and joking around. Even when she had difficulty communicating later she liked watching comedy shows and laughing. Or, if you started smiling or laughing, she’d do the same. She also appreciated handsome men. A group came to do a performance at her assisted living. She spotted one of the young men right away and couldn’t take her eyes off of him. She tried to pinch him but he slyly moved away just in time. Quite loudly, she stated, “I’m not too old to catch you and you’re not too young to enjoy it!” He was a bit startled, but he left with a good story.
8. Marital mixups
Dad was Mom’s full-time caregiver, but she was losing recognition of even the most familiar faces. One night he went to brush his teeth and on his way back to bed he called out “I’m coming to bed in just a minute.” Startled, Mom said “I don’t think that’s appropriate, do you?” He was confounded so he asked what she meant. She said “Well, I’m a married woman!” Of course, this stung a bit but Dad actually got a kick out of recalling it to us. His sense of humor was a real life-saver for him during the toughest times.
9. Age is just a number
Mom gets mixed up about time and our ages. One day she bluntly told me, “You need to stay out of the sun. You’re not aging well.” I realized she probably had no clue I was in my 50s and so I asked (big mistake), “How old do you think I am?” to which she replied “75?” I laughed. That was when it really struck me that there was no point in being offended by anything she might say.
10. A little risqué
With less inhibitions, sometimes people with dementia say things or make jokes they never would have before. Just take this example from Funny Caregiving Stories:
My mom lived in an assisted living facility where everyone left the doors to their rooms open. One man with Alzheimer’s was always restless and walked the halls endlessly. On one visit, she mentioned that he had tried to crawl into bed with her one night. I asked, “What did you do?!” Apparently, she told him he was in the wrong room and he left. Then she added, “What good is a man in your bed if he can’t remember anything?” –JulieQ
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