It’s no secret that caring for a loved one is a very stressful role, and the medical issues that your senior faces are certainly no laughing matter. But that doesn’t mean that caregivers – and their loved ones – can’t spend a few moments of the day finding the humor. There is a mountain of data out there to suggest that laughter really is some of the best medicine out there.
In the short term, laughter enhances your oxygen intake, which stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles. Laughter also increases the production of endorphins, which help relieve stress, and soothes tensions by stimulating circulation and muscle relaxation, which reduces the physical symptoms of stress.
Over time, laughing improves your immune system. Both positive and negative thoughts produce chemical reactions in the body. Replace that negative energy with the release of neuropeptides that fight stress and are released when the brain experiences positive energy, such as laughter. It has been shown that laughter also relieves pain. As mentioned above, laughter releases endorphins. These hormones work as a natural pain reliever because they produce dopamine that helps us feel happy and stimulated. Here’s an obvious one: laughter improves your mood. Let’s face it – when you’re laughing, bad thoughts get pushed out of your mind. Not only does it help you cope with the situation at hand, laughter also improves your self-esteem.
In addition to the medical research, anyone who has experienced a prolonged fit of laughter knows that it just feels good to giggle and joke with loved ones. To help you and your senior cope with some of the more mundane and serious daily activities involved in caregiving, here are some ways to introduce humor into your daily routine:
- Search for the funny. Whether you find funny anecdotes in articles to relate to your loved one or watch comedies on television with them, set aside some time during the day to simply enjoy one another’s company. You don’t need to put on a comedy routine but telling a joke or two during the daily routine can help alleviate tension.
- Get online. There are endless videos of funny events on YouTube and other video streaming services that you and your senior can enjoy. Obviously, you will need to make sure that the comedy is appropriate for your loved one’s tastes but harmless videos that could make an appearance on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” are a good option to start with.
- Ask your loved one to tell you some funny stories. Your senior probably has some funny stories from their youth they would be happy to tell. Most people don’t get through life without something hilarious happening along the way and reliving them can often be just as funny as the event when it happened.
- Laugh at daily life. Don’t be afraid to laugh when something funny happens during your daily routine. Caregiving can provide rich opportunities for the funny to simply happen and its not irreverent to laugh when it does.
- Invite friends over. If you or your senior has some entertaining friends or acquaintances, feel free to have them over for lunch or dinner. Not only does having a new face break up the routine for a much-needed change but having a funny or entertaining exchange makes the visit that much more enjoyable.
- Get silly. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Try on funny wigs and outfits, dance when no one else is dancing and laugh out loud in public places. Acting silly – within reason – can often break up the monotony of daily life. And if it gets the people around you to laugh, as well, then the more the merrier.
- Remember that humor isn’t mean or disrespectful. While laughing at one another’s actions during a particular situation can mostly be harmless, laughing at someone’s shortcomings is not funny. If your senior is laughing at their own antics, join in, but be careful to laugh with them and not at them.
For most caregivers, this chapter in their lives and in the lives of their senior is often the last moments in time they will be spending together. Joy can be found in the simple things: a joke, a shared funny moment or time spent watching hilarious videos. The act of caregiving can often make you feel overwhelmed, anxious or even depressed. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects that are too often a part of caregiving, a good laugh can push those negative thoughts out of your mind and help you find the simple joy in caregiving. At Amada Senior Care, our professional caregivers model these approaches when caring for our clients. Feel free to reach out to me directly (615-933-7494) if you have any questions or concerns- we are here to help.
Kevin B. Fehr, CSA, CDP, President & CEO, Certified Dementia Practitioner, Amada Senior Care Nashville, Amada Senior Care Bucks/Mont. Co. – www.amadanashville.com