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Humor in Caregiving: How It Plays a Useful Role in Memory Care

Humor and Alzheimer’s are two words that most of us would probably never use in the same sentence. Clearly, there is nothing humorous about a loved one with memory loss. However, experts in the field of memory care now say that humor can actually play a useful therapeutic role – both for caregivers and those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Crystal Yost, Program Director at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawrin Bryn Mawr, Pa., says, “Though it may seem rather surprising, humor and laughter are now being linked to a variety of mental and emotional benefits for those requiring memory care.

“Recent studies have shown that humor can provide a calming effect on loved ones with Alzheimer’s who are subject to bouts of anxiety, agitation and anger. Of equal importance, laughter has proven to be a valuable coping mechanism for busy caregivers who often feel stressed out and overburdened.”

Humor Acts as a Soothing Balm

The benefits of humor in managing symptoms and creating happy moments for loved ones with memory loss are confirmed by leaders in memory care, including the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Angela Lunde, a dementia education specialist in the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center,highlights the valueof humor for caregivers in her article “Alzheimer's support group gets lift from humor, sharing. 

I see humor as one of the key ingredients to cultivating resilience in life,” says Lunde. Studies show that laughter boosts the immune system and triggers the release of pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain. It's no secret that sharing laughs makes us feel better and helps us bond.”

Similarly, a professional white papertitled “Alzheimer’s Disease: Remember to Laugh” by Laurie Young and Kay Caskey states, “Laughing and even gentle teasing of people with the disease can turn into a tension-relieving exercise for the caregiver and patient alike who, while cognitively impaired, is still greatly influenced by ambient tensions.”

Humor’s Benefits for Loved Ones with Memory Loss

Memory loss typically causes confusion, frustration and depression in those living with the disease. These emotions can trigger a variety of behaviors, including anxiety and aggression. The good news is that laughter has been shown to counteract these behaviors while also improving the loved one’s quality of life. The list of humor’s benefits includes:

  • Allowing them to redirect negative emotions
  • Easing symptoms of depression
  • Tempering signs of aggression
  • Reducing stress
  • Improving social interaction and overall emotional state

A Healthy Coping Mechanism for Caregivers

The Alzheimer’s Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that caregivers make great sacrifices that result in less time for their families and friends, lost income due to missed work and a failure to take care of themselves.

Because of all the stress associated with caregiving, they emphasize the importance for caregivers to maintain their sense of humor. Laughter can help them cope with their difficult circumstances in several ways, including:

  • Relieving stress
  • Promoting mental health
  • Strengthening family relationships
  • Strengthening the immune system, so caregivers can stay healthy
  • Relieving tension and lightening the mood
  • Allowing them to enjoy the moment

Tips for Bringing Humor to Your Caregiver Role

If humor and laughter do not come easily for you – especially when you’re in the middle of a stress-filled day – the following tips from memory care experts can helpful:

  • Consider watching some comedy movies, sitcoms or listening to comedians’ recordings with your loved one. YouTube is a great resource for free videos! Type in almost any subject and find funny videos of all kinds, plus clips from old TV classics such as The Honeymooners, The Carol Burnett Show and I Love Lucy.
  • Encourage your loved one’s sense of humor and help create an environment of levity.
  • Lighten the atmosphere yourself by sharing a funny story. If your loved one has a good sense of humor, encourage it.
  • Seek out books, sites and people who encourage the brighter side of caregiving. A favorite book in this category is Mothering Mother by Carol O’Dell, which tells about her caregiving journey with her mother who had Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. The story is touching and will also make you laugh out loud.

Adds Crystal, “Do not be uncomfortable with using humor in your role as a caregiver. Keep in mind that humor is not only acceptable, it has proven to be very beneficial – for you and your loved one!”

Your Dependable Resource for Memory Care Information

More than an inviting and safe place for exceptional memory care services, Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr also serves as an important educational resource for at-home caregivers. We invite you to view our monthly articles and tips on memory care regularly. They are there to make your life as a caregiver easier and to improve the quality of care you offer to your loved one.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments about questions on our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section. 

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5404,or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.