Wednesday Workshop – Using Humor as a Healing Tool
Alzheimer’s disease is a deadly serious topic, and deservedly so. But sometimes laughter is the best medicine. For some, the only quality that keeps a patient happy and maintains a positive outlook on life is sense of humor from my caregiver! Being able to talk about limitations with humor takes the edge off for the patient and caregiver.
Maybe not all families use a sense of humor in their daily lives, but if we had to recommend just one thing to caregivers, it would be to use that humor in a positive way, because it can excite the mind, defuse delicate situations and make us all smile a bit more each day.
“I laugh to survive.” “If I didn’t laugh I would cry.” are phrases frequently heard at Alzheimer’s support groups— indeed comments are commonly used by people who face any serious life challenge. Currently, there are four million Americans who have Alzheimer’s and it’s predicted that as baby boomers age that number will grow to over 14 million.
Alzheimer’s disease is usually a family matter and many caregivers find that joking is a good way to help distance and relieve the stress caused by the increasingly complex needs of loved ones. On very active Alzheimer’s chat lines we have observed both the humor and its angry dismissal. Other caregivers lash out with replies like, “There is nothing funny about this disease and I care more than you—if you really did care, you wouldn’t be laughing.”
New subscribers seem to be most offended by the humor, which probably illustrates the “humor is tragedy plus time” philosophy. Others amaze even themselves by the degree to which they use humor to cope: “I have polled all the caregivers I know and they all said the same thing. Laugh whenever you get the chance. Dealing with Alzheimer’s disease is not very funny so if something happens that is even remotely funny, let it rip.”
One director of an Alzheimer’s disease daycare center said “If you don’t have a sense of humor you have no business in this line of work.” While researchers have been slow in developing treatments that will prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, they have made some interesting discoveries resulting in recommendations that can be put in place at any age. Essentially they say to “use it or lose it”.
The key to growing a better brain is to look for NEW challenges because learning stimulates rapid growth in the connections in the brain, creating a surplus of brain tissue that can compensate for cells damaged by disease.
Play is the brain’s favorite way of learning, and solving puzzles, learning to juggle, playing word games or improv can all have brain-enhancing benefits. So go forth and play—it’s good for you—and don’t forget to laugh. To learn more, call us anytime at 561-588-4545. Thanks for watching today’s Wednesday Workshop and we’ll see you again next week!