How To Bring Humor Into Care Giving

humor caregiving

Humor is very real. Just like caregiving. Together they are the perfect match for stress reduction.

That sounds incongruous, which is another word for absurd. And another  word for humor. Because when you put two things together that don’t make sense, it often makes you laugh.
When I was taking care of my 89 year old mom, she gave me another tour of her home,      
“Now these two paintings are for you.”
“I know, you told me that last year.”
“…and those end tables go to our good neighbors, Frank & Fran.”
So I asked kindly,
“But what should I do with all your lovely dresses?”
And mom replied,
“I don’t think any of them fit you!”
We laughed. Then she extended her arm so I could steady her walk.
“You know I needed that laugh.”
She said, “Me too!”
Humor is a great permission-giver. It’s also reveals truth under spoken words. And over the years, we both used humor to understand each other and a situation better. That made me a better caregiver for her.
That uncovering of hidden meaning can bring out many benefits that make life easier and fun, when we need it the most. So we practiced humor to give ourselves clarity-and diffuse difficult situations and people.
We liked to laugh, so in our separate lives, we watched funny movies, some mysteries too, and a comedian every once in a while. From this we learned unconsciously what made us laugh. Plus how to make ourselves laugh which is a welcome gift.
And while everyone laughs at different things, we all laugh in the same language.
The best is to know how to bring humor into a caregiving situation, ah, that’s perfect love!
So this is what humor is and where it comes from. By learning these simple points, you too can pass around smiles with laughter.
First, the word humor comes from the Latin word, Ümor, which means to be fluid, like being flexible. So it’s not being funny in the sense, but so very important as a balance in life’s craziness today.
Second, humor as we know it, is significant in the brain, because it uses two distinctly dissimilar parts. Parts that wouldn’t be needed normally to figure something out. But they do in a joke or potentially a funny story.
When we are figuring out a problem, or say a situation, we are using the cognitive part of the human brain. In a sense, are taking apart a thought and analyzing it, to best understand something. This also helps keep our mind alert in a way. So things like learning a new language, a musical instrument, or a crossword puzzle, helps enhance our cognitive side of the brain. And this can sometimes help our short and long-term memory too.
But when you’re told a joke, something unusual jumps in! You’re trying to figure out a joke-and the moment you do, it jumps to the pleasure center of the brain, and you laugh!
That’s especially beneficial for caregivers and care receivers. Because it can create an open, playful environment that nurtures the soul. Just like my mom at the end of her life was easily able to balance humor, with the road ahead in hospice.
Third, when you laugh, it brings problems down to size. Because it let’s you poke the drama and hot air out of a problem. So having ‘Sense Of  Ümor’, means you're bringing some  ‘balancing humor’ into any caregiver task.
Key to this is another wonderful result of laughter, as it releases Serotonin, a feel-good chemical in the brain that has a lot to do with personal well being.
Psychologists also say we should laugh 15 times a day, and that three of those should be belly laughs. That’s the kind that has you on the floor laughing. I practiced this daily with 120 patients in a teaching mental health hospital for three years. We had a blast!
How do you bring humor into the caregiving dynamic, particularly in home care can be as easy as looking up a good product at Discount Medical Supplies that you can also use for a bit of happy humor. For a male patient of mine in a nursing home that I was caring for, became great fun, because we used healing humor every week to get his balance back.
This is how it worked for us:
‘Joe’ had been an outstanding professional football player, in the Super Bowl twice, and still at almost six feet, five. Now at 87, he was sometimes hard to deal with, me lifting his heavy body-and sometimes an uncooperative personality. But I knew better, because he felt alone. That was the reason for his gruff personality, so I sometimes did funny things. I ordered one small box of adult diapers from the new Pediatrics section.
This is what I did:
I found a little doll my niece gave me, and put a diaper on like a hat, borrowed a football, walked into his room, and woke up Joe.
“What are you doing with a pink diaper and a hula doll on your head?”
“Oh, that’s our team mascot! You like it? And the diaper’s my new helmet!”
Joe sat up, then burst out with a roaring laugh that that wouldn’t stop! One of the nurses peeked into the room, thinking something was wrong-and herself left laughing. She knew the power of laughter-and caregiving humor.
“You’re really one weird guy Robert, you know that? (pause) But did I need that laugh! God bless you. (pause) I’d like to shake your hand.”
“How about a hug?”
“Yeah, that’s what I wanted but couldn’t tell ya.”
So we hugged, clumsy on my part as I carefully leaned over his bed to avoid a tube in his chest. I saw his eyes sparkle for the first time in months.  As I sat down by his side, he asked,   
“Can’t tell you Joe, because it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
That night, Joe went to sleep with a big smile.
And that made a wonderful difference for him, and me.
Happiness through care giving humor is the one sure thing we can give freely when our minds use our individual imagination for unexpected humor in any loving, even difficult caregiving situation.
Try it with someone soon, your own gift of humor will surprise you with happiness.


Copyright © 2014 Robert Kutchera


Related Read:

Cultural Differences in Caregiving: Answers from Robert Kutchera

Look at the Bright Side: Humor in Caregiving