When we think about caring for an ill or aging loved one, humor and laughter are not words that typically come to mind. Rather, we think about responsibility, stress and sacrifice. We generally approach caregiver health with serious self-care practices that reflect the serious nature of our caregiving role. But, something as simple and natural as humor can offer amazing health benefits as well.
According to Nancy Clanton, Community Relations Director at Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, humor and laughter are actually powerful tools for remaining positive within a caregiving role. “Most often,” Clanton says, “the stress caregivers experience comes from the worry and anxiety they feel over parts of life they can’t control. Embracing laughable moments that emerge throughout the day can allow caregivers to let go of things they have no control over and enjoy life’s pleasant moments.”
Real Benefits of Humor & Laughter
Although you probably won’t see it written on any prescription, humor has numerous benefits for our physical and mental health. According to caregiver expert and author Sherri Snelling, multiple scientific studies have proven the benefits of humor and laughter since the late 70s, when laughter was first recognized as a legitimate form of self-healing. Key benefits include:
- Reduction of Stress – Humor decreases stress and better enables us to cope with challenging situations. Subsequently, reducing stress has remarkable benefits of its own, including less inflammation (and fewer stomach pains, acid reflux, etc.), increased elasticity in blood vessels and higher levels of oxygen in the blood.
- Cardio Exercise – One study shows that laughing for 20 seconds is just as beneficial to our lungs as three minutes on a rowing machine.
- Immune System Support – Laughter can actually keep us from falling ill! Laughing produces and activates strong antibodies that attack viruses and tumors in the body. When we undergo long periods of stress, the production of these antibodies decreases.
- Decreased Pain – Many patients with long-term or terminal illnesses report that humor works as a welcomed distraction from chronic pain. Laughter can also help our minds and bodies relax so that we can cope with physical pain more easily.
In addition to the science, anyone who’s shared a humorous moment with a friend understands that laughing just feels good! It releases chemicals that create feelings of pleasure, which helps us view our current situation from a more positive perspective. Laughing may be the key to relaxing just enough to get through a difficult caregiving moment and find new solutions to a problem.
Implementing Humor into Your Caregiving
Now that we know how great laughter is for our bodies and minds, it’s easy to see how humor applies to healthy caregiving. Providing benefits for both the caregiver and their loved one, humor can be a useful coping mechanism during tense or difficult care situations.
Expressing emotions is a healthy part of life. Just as you can feel better if you cry, you can also feel better if you laugh. In her article, “Finding a Reason to Laugh,” Amber Bauer, a staff member for the American Society of Clinical Oncology, describes how laughter can help family and friends relate to a loved one with a chronic condition by easing the tension of not knowing what to say. If a humorous comment can ease this tension, then you are free to do your job – offer support, encouragement and companionship – the best you can.
Laughing together builds strong connections between people with which relationships can develop and grow. With regards to family caregivers, these relationships may already be quite strong, but a healthy dose of humor now and then can make it easier to relate to your loved one when it’s time for more serious conversations. On a daily basis, laughter can lead to meaningful moments for you and your loved one, distracting you from the stress, pain and hardships that may take up too much of your attention.
Embrace humorous situations whenever they happen, and try to add moments of humor to your caregiving routine to lighten your loved one’s mood. Here are a few suggestions to try:
- Search for funny stories. Subscribe to a joke-of-the-day email list or buy a day-calendar with funny comic strips. Magazines like Reader’s Digest also have sections dedicated to funny stories submitted by readers.
- Watch funny movies together. Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin films are great sources of laughter for a lover of the classics. Or, maybe your loved one prefers more modern comedies. Find movies or sitcoms that they enjoy and schedule a regular time to watch them together.
- Get online. YouTube may be the largest source of funny videos available. You can search for anything from episodes of I Love Lucy to silly animal videos to watch together.
- Spend time with funny friends. Do you know someone with a great sense of humor? Invite them over for lunch with you and your loved one. Spend time chatting together, and a funny story is sure to emerge.
Care When It Counts
If you are struggling to find relief from caregiver stress and anxiety, try to embrace more humorous moments during your day. “It’s okay to laugh,” says Clanton. “Sometimes your loved one’s condition may seem so overwhelming that you think it’s not right to enjoy life or take time to escape. But when you and your loved one laugh together, you’re allowing both of you to enjoy life to it’s fullest. A day without laughter isn’t much fun.”
If you could use some support as you care for your loved one, or are looking for more ideas on how to bring more fun into your caregiving routine, call Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay. We’d be happy to help you brainstorm fun activities to make your loved one’s day even brighter.
The Art of Living
At Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, we’ve mastered the art of living. We’ve perfected the balance of personalized support and an uplifting lifestyle, helping our residents experience independence, joy and meaning every day.
Offering supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care services for families in Venice, Florida, Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay was founded with one simple, yet profound goal – to create a community worthy of our parents. In all we do, we are guided by the principles of family, culture and engagement, working to represent the remarkable way of life our families deserve.
Luxury, intimacy, opportunity, passion and beauty combine to create what the Italians call sprezzatura – a culture of effortless elegance. The essence of our community is made up not only of mere aesthetics, but an artfully designed lifestyle to bring out the best of what each day has to offer. From dedicated care that respects residents’ individuality and dignity to a lifestyle that nurtures their love of life, Tuscan Gardens was built to be more than just a residence, but a place to call home.