Do you realize that many times elder care is not fun?
You only have to do it for a very short time to realize how hard it is.
Wondering if there’s an alternative?
Yes! One way to start is by finding the humor in situations, which can greatly relieve your caregiving stress and make caregiving less burdensome…
When my mother was undergoing radiation therapy, it was a stressful time. It was the middle of a cold, wet winter.
Midway through the treatments, she lost her appetite and became depressed. We worried she was losing her will to live. The only thing that seemed to generate interest in her was holding my sister’s young puppy.
So I searched – and found – a rescued toy poodle named Emma. The first night Emma stayed with us, she wanted held after supper.
She seemed so fragile Mother was afraid to hold Emma, so I held her.
Emma made herself comfortable in my lap, with her chin in the crook of my elbow, and promptly fell asleep.
In a few minutes there was a loud snore coming from this tiny dog!
Mother and I both laughed out loud. It was the beginning of many wonderful laughs from Emma. Laughter eased the tension and stresses of caregiving.
Have you found laughter helpful?
Laughter is now more and more recognized as important by the medical community in facing tough and challenging times. Like caregiving!
This recent article explains how laughter eases caregiver stress…
It’s Okay to Laugh: Appreciate the Humor in Caregiving
January 24, 2012 7:00 PM
By Marlo Sollitto, AgingCare.com contributing editor.
Unexpected humorous moments are common in caregiving. In fact, caregiving can be enlivened by the unprompted remarks and unintentional antics of an elderly parent.
But should we feel guilty about laughing? Is our laughter a sign of disrespect or a lack of love for our family member? Do we want to laugh but don’t because we’re afraid of seeming insensitive?
Even in the most dire of circumstances, elder care professionals insist that it is OK, even helpful, to laugh. “Not only is laughing OK, it’s absolutely necessary,” says Cindy Laverty, a former caregiver who founded The Care Company and The Cindy Laverty talk show, a first-of-its-kind forum that discusses the topic of care.
When Laverty was unexpectedly thrust into caregiving, she had to learn how to navigate the complex and overwhelming world of caregiving. But through that journey, she discovered how she could not only survive, but thrive amid the challenges. Finding and holding onto humorous stories of your own can help you keep an upbeat perspective in spite of the challenges of being a caregiver, she explains.
“We go into caregiving with this big dark cloud hanging over us – it’s stressful, it’s so awful. When we go in with that attitude, that’s what it becomes. It is stressful and awful, but when we’re having a horrible day, a good day is sure to follow. And even in the midst of those horrible days, there are funny moments that happen. Recognize and appreciate those moments,” she says.
Take Alzheimer’s disease for example. It robs elders of their memories and ability to care for themselves, and that is tragic. Certainly Alzheimer’s is an awful disease, and there is nothing funny about it. But there are funny moments that happen. When you laugh, you’re not laughing at them; you’re laughing because the moment is funny. “If we don’t follow the whole spectrum of emotion, we get lost in the oppression of a chronic disease,” Laverty explains.
Your laughter can also send a positive, non-alarming message to the elder. If you don’t get upset during a challenging, it’s likely that they won’t either. Laughing can turn into a tension relieving exercise for the caregiver and person with Alzheimer’s who, while cognitively impaired, is still greatly influenced by ambient tensions.
Moments of Humor
When Laverty was caring for her father-in-law, who had open heart surgery and a stroke, one of his favorite activities was golfing. Of course, he could no longer hit the greens, so the Laverty’s set up a chipping station for him in the backyard. “He couldn’t balance well, due to the stroke. When he swung the golf club, I had to squat down and hold his belt, so he wouldn’t fall. One time, he did fall…on top of me. We ended up in a very compromising position. His response was, ‘We have to stop meeting like this.’ We both just cracked up. It lightened up the moment, and turned an awkward situation into a hilarious one.”
Laverty’s mother-in-law also provided some comic relief during her bout with Alzheimer’s disease. She was missing her four front teeth – each one lost when she bit various home health workers. “If someone bent over, or got too close, she would bite them,” Laverty says. “Needless to say, that is a dangerous and unwanted behavior. But no matter what we tried, we couldn’t get her to stop. Getting a caregiver to stick around wasn’t easy. But you can’t deny it…the situation was funny.”
Laverty also found ways to lighten up stressful moments. Like bath time. Her mother-in-law refused to bathe, because the Alzheimer’s made her afraid of the water. One evening, Laverty ran a warm bath, put Mr. Bubble in it, lit some candles, played a Dean Martin CD and poured a glass of non-alcoholic champagne (her mother-in-law’s favorite drink back in the day) “She got right in the bathtub. But then we couldn’t get her out,” Laverty laughs.
Simple Joys Make Life Worth Living
Laverty reminds us that “caregiving is our final walk with our loved one. What do you want that journey to look like? Do you want it to be miserable and laden with despair? Or do you want it to be a special time in which special memories are made? At the end of the day, as mad as I got at my in-laws when I was caregiving, I’d give anything if I could just hold their hand one more time.”
Humor in the Media
The media has picked up on the fact that caregiving can be funny. For example, Fox Television’s hit TV sitcom Raising Hope stars Cloris Leachman as Maw Maw, the great-grandmother, once the rock of the family who now vacillates between moments of lucidity and dementia. In her mind, the house is infested with mongooses, she’s cheating on her dead husband and it just might be World War II.
It’s not just made-for-TV moments that have grabbed the media spotlight. In a real-life example, Justin Halpern moved in with his 73-year-old father after hitting hard financial times. He soon discovered that with old age, his father had lost all inhibitions, and said whatever was on his mind. Halpern, who describes his dad as “like Socrates, but angrier and with worse hair” began writing down his father’s rants and posting them to a Twitter account. Now, more than a million people follow Halpern’s philosophical musings on Twitter. As a result, Halpern was offered a book deal. In less than three months, the aptly named Sh*t My Dad Says made it to the New York Times Bestseller List.
Humor is a Necessity
Laverty urges all caregivers to give up the role of the martyr. “If you listen to the news then you know that caregivers are supposed to feel overwhelmed and exhausted and without hope,” she says. “When that mentality takes over, it’s a recipe for disaster. Don’t fall into victimization! I urge you to avoid adopting this mentality. It’s a horrible place to be and the longer you stay there, the more difficult it becomes to get out!”
Caregiving is hard – we’re not dismissing the gravity and hardship of the situation. But, during the tough times, it can be too easy to forget the importance of humor. Etch the funny memories in your spirit, and hold them in your heart. When you’re loved one is gone, you’ll be glad you did.
Read real-life upbeat, funny stories and words of inspiration here at AgingCare.com’s Breath of Fresh Air – a lighter side of caregiving.
Copyright © 2012 Care2.com Inc. All rights reserved.Original Source:
So what are three ways laughter reduces your caregiver stress?
- Instantly relieve tension. Laughter reduces the tension in your muscles.
- Calming influence. Defusing a difficult or sad situation with humor and laughter can bring an air of calm. Immediately.
- Making happy memories to last beyond your caregiving. You want to remember your loved one with happy memories, right? Making things pleasant with laughter, fun and humor can create happy memories you can cherish long after you can no longer physically hold your loved one. Although they are both no longer here, I still smile every time I think of Emma snoring loudly, and our laughter!
Do you see now how powerful laughter is?
It may just be one of your best “secret” weapons! 😉
Wondering where can you find something to laugh about?
- Old television comedies or movies. The humor in classic comedies like “The Andy Griffith Show” or “I Love Lucy” never go out of style. The fashions may, but the “clean” humor is timeless. And an episode may just coax a smile from your loved ones when jokes and other things fail.
- Everyday situations. Laughter defuses the tension. Your loved one may be afraid you’ll be mad. Especially someone with dementia may think if she does something wrong, you’ll be angry. Try laughing instead.
- Newspaper or online comics. Want to include someone in the caregiving who cannot otherwise participate? Make it his or her “job” to give you a daily laugh. It’s a win-win situation! You can get free online comics here.
Think caregiving is hard?
You’re not alone.
It may just be the hardest thing you ever so. It can also be the best thing you ever do – giving care, time and love to someone you love.
Laughter is an important part of more than surviving – thriving – in caregiving.
Wondering how laughter and humor fit into your caregiving journey?
Now there’s a road map to show you how to navigate caregiving. And yes, laughter IS an important part of your caregiving.
To your healthy and happy caregiving,
Ina Gilmore, M.D. (Retired)
“The Knitting Dr.”
Bestselling Author of “What Do I Say In a Sympathy Card?”
Creator of A HEART PLAN