“If I don’t laugh, I would cry”, was my mother-in-law’s refrain while we shared a chuckle after Dad’s latest Parkinson’s-related mishap. Although his disease was no laughing matter, it seemed to help if we could find the funny side of the situation as we developed a strategy to tackle the next home caregivers hurdle.
“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” — Victor Borge Comedian, Pianist, Conductor
Few roles have higher demands on them than the role of family caregiver. The 24-hour per day, 7-day per week job is never finished, and the job description is ever-changing. How can this be laughable? It’s not. However, our response to how we tackle the tasks may help us preserve our own health during a caregiving relationship. And, finding humor in our daily routine is one way that home caregivers may combat stress through laughter.
Health benefits of laughter
Laughter can help in many ways:
It releases tension and helps a person relax. That’s something that all home caregivers need!
It strengthens the immune system. The act of laughing and the mood it creates help to increase the production of immune cells and antibodies.
- It’s heart healthy. Blood flow improves when a person is in a laughing mood. A hearty laugh can introduce aerobic benefits.
It improves perspective. Sometimes laughter helps home caregivers look at difficult situations and find solutions they had previously overlooked.
Home caregivers can find time for humor
What are the things that amuse you? Identify some of those things and then find ways to enjoy those things as often as you possibly can.
True, that can be a challenge, but it’s worth it. Ideally, you need to find a way to devote a period of time to nothing, but activities that produce laughter, but if that’s not possible there are ways of fitting in those activities. For example:
- Make the activity part of your social time with your senior loved one. Find a funny movie that you both will enjoy and watch it together, taking time to comment on what you find funny. This can turn it into a bonding experience as well as a laugh-inducing one.
- Pull out some comedy albums or CDs and play them while you make dinner or fold the laundry. If you don’t have any comedy discs, try the library or look up your favorite comedians and routines on YouTube.
- When you’re in the car driving to doctor appointments with your loved one, share jokes with each other.
- While in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, talk about funny childhood memories and family moments with your loved one. You might also bring along a photos that have captured some funny family moments.
- When you’re doing an activity that doesn’t require complete concentration, such as setting the table, call up that friend who always makes you smile and have a nice, leisurely conversation.
Home caregivers often have so much on their plates that they forget to take care of themselves. Making time for a little laughter everyday needs to be part of everyone’s schedule.