A Lighter Side to Caring

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Article by 

Mary Bart

Caring for our elderly loved ones is not all doom and gloom. Many of us often find that unexpectedly hilarious things happen. Funny stories make us and the person we’re caring for—laugh, and they often help us to get through difficult situations.

Most of us love a funny story, but there is also a serious side to most stories. Not only do they make us chuckle and create great memories, but they can also be used as learning opportunities to improve our caregiving.

Before we take a look at three families and their ways of coping, let’s quickly talk about at what laughter can do for our health.

  • It’s been proven that laughter is a natural medicine.
  • It lifts our spirits and makes us feel happy.
  • It’s contagious, reduces stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) and releases endorphins that can potentially relieve pain.

strengthening bonds in caregiving

8 Ways to Bring Laughter to Your Day

Laughter isn’t always a natural part of a caregiver’s life. Here are a few tips for increasing the humour in your day.

  1. Watch comedy sitcoms and movies. If you have a favourite series, purchase the full DVD set to have on hand.
  2. Look on YouTube for free videos and musicians that will bring a smile to your face. Most people like watching old episodes of Seinfeld, I Love Lucy or a Dean Martin special.
  3. Keep a camera close by so that you can take a few photos of funny things that happen during the day. Connect with family and friends to exchange pictures.
  4. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try to laugh at harmless mistakes.
  5. Keep a journal of funny stories and situations. Later on, these memories might just bring a smile.
  6. Find a joke of the day.
  7. Search for pictures of kids or animals doing all kinds of silly things that will get you laughing.
  8. Caregiver support groups are often an instant source of funny stories. Most people have one to share.

1. MARY AND CAYE

Mum and I loved to go shopping. Whether we were buying food or sheets and towels, she was always excited by the thought of wandering up and down the aisles together.

Because I felt a shop was a safe environment, when Mum was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, I would sometimes encourage her to go ahead of me into another aisle. She enjoyed the feeling of being more independent. When we met up again, we would often pretend we were friends who hadn’t seen each other in ages. I would laugh and say, “Wow, I can’t believe it’s you. I’ve missed you”, and give her a really long hug.

Our laughter often turned into us making funny noises at each other. We’d try to sound like birds chirping or dogs barking or would start doing hiccups, burps or snores. The more ridiculous the sounds, the greater our laughter.

Moral of the Story

As Mum was losing her memory and not always sure of herself or able to find her words, our funny, very public hugging and silly noise game helped to keep her amused. I learned to do what was best for MY mum, regardless of where we were or who was watching. The funny thing is, at the end of her life, our noisy, funny hugging game was one of our best ways to communicate with each other. She didn’t have to worry about finding a word—she just had to make funny sounds, and our laughter would continue to unite us. When you’re full of joy in your unique role as a carer to your unique loved one, often the world around you will applaud.

2. DREW AND LEE

One day, Drew was left on his own to figure out the basics of being a carer for his mother-in-law when his wife was suddenly called into work.

It was mid-morning before he tiptoed into Lee’s bedroom to see if she needed anything. Without a doubt, there had been an accident. The room smelt awful. After a few seconds of horror, Drew realized he would have to change his mother-in-law’s adult diaper—but where in the heck were they kept, and how in the world should he do it?

In a panic, Drew called his wife for step-by-step instructions, but she didn’t answer, and he couldn’t find the spare diapers. Naturally, the first course of action was to call a neighbour to come to the house to sit with Lee while he rushed out to the pharmacy. Clearly lost, Drew found himself floundering helplessly in Aisle 3 when a fellow shopper approached him with some “Been there, done that” advice as he pointed him in the right direction.

Rushing home to save the day, Drew barely had time to feel embarrassed as he had to get down to the task at hand. After all, Lee needed him, and he wasn’t going to let her down—plain and simple. Happy to report the operation was totally successful. What an experience!! It was safe to say that Drew got to know his mother-in-law a heck of a lot better after that ordeal. To this day, they all still find the situation extremely amusing.

Moral of the Story

Yes, Drew learned a valuable lesson in caregiving, and yes, Drew made every effort to preserve his mother-in-law’s dignity, but more than that, Drew found a friend in his next-door neighbour. A neighbour that had compassion for Drew and a heart to help. She was also happy to support them by way of providing some much-needed respite for Drew and his wife when she was available.

Better a neighbour nearby, than a brother far away

3. RITA, STEVE AND MITCH

Steve had been caring for his wife Rita for almost a year after her major head injury that resulted in several emergency brain surgeries and strokes.

One Friday, Rita was rushed to the hospital….. again!! Her situation proved serious enough for the
hospital to admit her for an extended period to monitor her condition. While Rita was in the ward on the third floor of the hospital, Steve ran into the wife of his old friend Mitch. Steve discovered that Mitch had also been admitted to the hospital for observation. Later that afternoon, Steve was excited to reconnect with his old buddy. After all, they hadn’t seen each other since Rita got sick.

Upon seeing Steve, Mitch chuckled and, in his normal sarcastic way, began with an insult: “Steve, you look like a grumpy old goat with matted hair. What happened?” Steve replied by saying, “Well, Mitch, you don’t look so hot either!” They both laughed, gave each other a quick hug, and enjoyed catching up.

At home later that night, Steve took a good look in the mirror and agreed that his very honest friend was right. He had been so consumed with caring for Rita that he never thought about himself. He had put regular exercise in the “too hard” basket. Didn’t bother getting regular haircuts or even shaving every day as he was accustomed to doing. So, before his next visit, Steve got all cleaned up. He felt better and made Rita feel better by just looking at her handsome husband without the added burden of how her husband was coping.

Moral of the Story

In the middle of everything, carers often need a reminder to pay attention to their own health and hygiene. Looking and feeling good is not only essential to your own quality of life, but it also helps
to make caregiving more manageable in the long run as well as lighten the burden of the loved one for whom you are caring.

We don’t laugh because we’re happy. We’re happy because we laugh.

William James
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