Caregivers, Laughter Still Best Medicine

Caregivers, Laughter Still Best Medicine

Posted on April 28, 2014 by ElderCare Resources Phoenix in Alzheimers Care, Blog, Caregiver Education, Dementia Care, Education, Home Care Non-Medical, Respite Care

17 reasons to laugh, even if you’re a caregiver

By: Lee Nyberg

“Laughter is joy overflowing,” according to T. Marni Vos, well-known, Lincoln-based humorist. This wonderful turn of phrase created a picture of laughter bubbling out, like a baby’s gleeful giggles. It made me think about how much joy I have in my life and what goes on when a person laughs.

Laughter connects, energizes, and soothes us and lightens situations. Norman Cousins, famous author of “Anatomy of an Illness,” said it was a powerful healing and pain-relieving force. Other researchers, such as Robert Provine, University of Maryland Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, have focused on laughter’s effect on the body. It reduces the physical symptoms and damage of stress because it:

• Boosts antibodies and immune cells; helping to fight infection,

• Soothes tension by increasing circulation and cueing muscle relaxation, and

• Increases feelings of happiness, thereby lessening depression and anxiety.

Dr. Gary Small, in his book “The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program,” says laughter changes the way a body functions. In addition to stretching the face and body muscles and increasing blood pressure and breathing, it also increases activity in the brain. In fact, laughter mimics the effect of a mild workout on the body’s physiology.

People have known for a long time that laughter makes tough situations easier to take. Drs. Rowe and Kahn, in “Successful Aging,” say the ability to laugh at yourself and the difficult times life delivers makes a tremendous difference in how you age, and how well connected you stay to your spouse and other important people. Laughing actually reinforces relationships, which in turn, helps us be resilient and handle life’s big problems more successfully.

Vos has her own theory. In a recent presentation to caregivers, she explained laughter and humor are about 15% jokes and 85% relationships. The stories she told painted a picture of the “rollercoaster” life we all lead. For peaks, she described good times with siblings growing up, hearing her mother laugh, and then laughing with her sisters as adults – to the point of tears and beyond. The valleys, ranging from the monsters in her childhood closet to her mother’s Alzheimer’s journey, were lessened by shared laughter.

Since she understands how tough caregiving can be, Ms. Vos encouraged the audience to look for good things in everyday living. You have probably noticed how as soon as you start looking for something, you see it everywhere. We find what we seek, whether it is humor, or all the things to worry about. The important part of this nugget of wisdom is this: whatever you are seeking each day, day after day, adds up to be a lifetime of the things you have been looking for. He who seeks and finds humor has a lifetime of laughter to look back on.

We actually live life moment by moment, not day by day. Find a moment of humor in a day of challenging caregiving; it is the joy you might have missed otherwise.

Published: Journal Star