Anyone caring for the health and well-being of an older loved one takes their role very seriously, especially when a senior is living with a chronic illness or memory loss that impacts every part of their day-to-day lives. Most caregivers consider a healthy lifestyle for both themselves and the loved one in their care to include a good diet, physical activity, social interaction and other habits any doctor would suggest. In the midst of striving to create the highest quality of life possible, many caregivers neglect one important aspect of daily life that can offer amazing benefits with minimal effort: humor.
“Laughter is truly a powerful medicine,” explains Tonya Cox, Executive Director and senior living expert at The Homeplace at Midway, a Christian Care Community in Midway, KY. “Humor is a great tool for encouraging positivity and relieving stress. It’s a natural, totally free way to brighten you and your loved one’s state of mind.
“The biggest source of caregiver stress is the anxiety that emerges over things they can’t control: worrying about your loved one’s future health, emotional struggles with guilt or feelings of inadequacy, not accomplishing everything on their impossible to-do lists. But with an attitude that readily embraces humor, caregivers can let go of their anxiety and enjoy living in the stress-free moment.”
4 Remarkable Health Benefits of Humor
Your doctor isn’t likely to prescribe laughter, but it still has amazing benefits for our physical and mental health. According to Sherri Snelling, caregiver expert and author, 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:
Immune System Support – Laughter can actually help 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. Keeping things light is actually a great preventative measure!
Cardio Exercise – One study shows that laughing for 20 seconds is just as beneficial to our lungs as three minutes on a rowing machine – and these reps are sure to be more enjoyable!
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.
Decreased Pain – Many patients with long-term or terminal illnesses report that humor works as a welcome 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 can totally change our mood. It releases chemicals that create feelings of pleasure, which in turn helps us to 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 Laughter into Your Lifestyle
Now that we know how great laughter is for our bodies and minds, it’s not hard to see how humor applies to healthy caregiving and senior living. Providing benefits for both the caregiver and their loved one, humor can be a useful coping mechanism during tense or difficult care situation.
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,” Amy Bauer, from 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 suddenly freed and able to do your job – offering support, encouragement and companionship – the best you can.
Laughing together builds strong connections between people on which relationships can develop and grow. With regards to family caregivers, these relationships may already be quite strong, but a healthy dose of humor can make it easier to relate to your loved one and enjoy each other’s company more. After all, you do spend a lot of time together! On a daily basis, humor 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.
Try to embrace humorous moments whenever they happen, and add elements of humor to your caregiving routine to lighten your loved one’s mood. For example:
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.
Meet with other caregivers. Caregivers from your support group or neighborhood understand the challenging and hilarious moments that come about from caregiving. Meet with caregiving friends regularly to support each other and share joyful stories as well as struggles.
Becoming Best Friends
“At The Homeplace, we know that humor and laughter are healthy components of meaningful living,” says Cox. “Through our Best Friends™ Approach to care, we get to know each resident on a personal level. We become their close friends in all aspects: we know what they love to do, who their family members are, what makes them laugh. In every interaction we have, our goal is to create moments of joy to build upon for the most meaningful days.”
If you would like to learn more about the care services and offerings at The Homeplace at Midway, contact us today.
The Homeplace at Midway accommodates residents at all levels of care within four comfortable, homelike cottages. Along with our Assisted Living, Memory Care and two Skilled Nursing Care cottages, the Lucy Simms Lloyd Gathering House – our community cottage – is just a quick walk down the road. Here you can find our Administrative Support offices as well as space for social gatherings, worship services and engaging activities.
And of course, every level of care is delivered with the Best Friends™ Approach, ensuring each resident at The Homeplace at Midway is cared for at a deep, personalized level and their days are filled with meaningful, life-affirming activities.
The Lifestyle You Deserve
Cottage-style living at The Homeplace at Midway reinvents senior living, offering a lifestyle of care and comfort that everyone deserves. The Homeplace has been designed to provide our residents with the most fulfilling lifestyle possible, from our vast array of services and amenities to our delightful dining experiences and engaging activities. We celebrate each person’s individuality by creating a relaxed, customized environment, where they are free to express themselves in the comfort of their home.
Contact us today to learn more about the many unique advantages of The Homeplace at Midway!