But should we feel guilty about laughing? Is our laughter a sign of disrespect or a lack of love for our family member? Do we want to laugh but don't because we're afraid of seeming insensitive?
Even in the most dire of circumstances, elder care professionals insist that it is OK, even helpful, to laugh. "Not only is laughing OK, it's absolutely necessary. However, right at the outset I will emphasize that by no means is disrespect, ridicule, vulgarity or profanity in humor ever acceptable in the care giving realm. Humor and laughter is a great tool to aid in the emotional and mental situation for both caregiver and the loved one; but it is never to be done in a way that demeans them or strips them of their dignity. This is not a difficult issue to deal with in our minds, all we need to do is ask ourselves “How would I like to be treated in if I was in their situation.” This brings clarity to our actions and behavior.
Many times caregiving is a seen as a dreadful task, and very depressing. When we go in with that attitude, that's what it becomes. It is stressful and awful, but when we're having a horrible day, a good day is sure to follow. And even in the midst of those horrible days, there are funny moments that happen. Recognize and appreciate those moments.
Finding and holding onto humorous stories of your own can help you keep an upbeat perspective in spite of the challenges of being a caregiver. When you make up your mind to set this as your goal, it improves the task immensely, and it lightens the atmosphere for both you and the loved one your caring for.
Take Alzheimer’s disease for example. It robs elders of their memories and ability to care for themselves, and that is tragic. Certainly Alzheimer's is an awful disease, and there is nothing funny about it. But there are funny moments that happen. When you laugh, you're not laughing at them; you're laughing because the moment is funny. "If we don't follow the whole spectrum of emotion, we get lost in the oppression of a chronic disease. The disease takes our dignity, our memory, and every moment of joy; if we allow it to. But the key is: we don’t have to allow it to have control of every aspect of our lives; we can rise above it, and let joy and laughter change how we manage our difficulties. Stressful activities such as bath time, if the loved one is greatly disabled can become much less of a struggle if we lighten the situation with kindness, patience and humor.
Your laughter can also send a positive, non-alarming message to the elder. If you don't get upset during a challenging, it's likely that they won't either. Laughing can turn into a tension relieving exercise for the caregiver and person with Alzheimer's who, while cognitively impaired, is still greatly influenced by ambient tensions.
Caregiving is our final walk with our loved one. We must ask ourselves these questions: What do you want that journey to look like? Do you want it be miserable and laden with despair? Or do you want it to be a special time in which special memories are made.
As a caregiver it’s important to give up the role of the martyr. The stereotype for caregivers is they are supposed to feel overwhelmed and exhausted and without hope. When that mentality takes over, it's a recipe for disaster. Don't fall into victimization. Avoid adopting this mentality. It's a horrible place to be and the longer you stay there, the more difficult it becomes to get out.
Caregiving is difficult and you cannot dismiss the gravity and hardship of the situation. But, during the tough times, don’t forget the importance of humor. Allow a smile, or humorous comment to lighten the situation, and make precious memories in your spirit, and hold them in your heart. When you're loved one is gone, you'll be glad you did.