Ageing can be tough and caring for seniors with chronic and debilitating diseases is no laughing matter. A care environment can invoke stress, anger, depression and sadness which is not good for the mental health of elders and their caregivers. They need to have a catharsis for these feelings hence why humour and laughter are important.
It is said that laughter is the best medicine. It is especially potent in a senior care environment. This is not just an anecdote. Medical research has shown that laughter is linked with many health benefits such as increasing blood flow, boosting the immune system, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, lowering blood pressure and even preventing blood clots. Patients suffering from serious diseases such as cancer have identified that laughter is almost as important to them as being pain-free.
Here are a few thoughts for caregivers on how to leverage humour to reduce stress and strengthen the bonds between them and those under their care.
1. Create your own moments for finding humour and laughter
Even in the toughest caring environment, there can be light-hearted moments. Keep an eye out for these and make sure to turn them into an occasion for humour and laughter. A caregiver may feel that humour is disrespectful, especially when caring for seniors with diseases such as dementia. But in reality, any humour that does not belittle a senior can create a moment of happiness for them. Remember, you are laughing with them, not at them.
2. Find humour and laughter in Media
Don’t wait for a funny moment to happen. Try to find out if a senior has a favourite funny show and make sure to watch it regularly with them.
If you read the newspaper with the seniors every day, try to find some funny stories to share with them.
You can also leverage the internet, by subscribing to a joke-of-the-day service or just searching for funny videos on youtube that you know an elder would like.
3. Fake it if you can’t make it
Sometimes you may not find it in your heart to have a laugh with your seniors. You may feel sorry for them or be saddened by their pain.
But research shows that although the brain can distinguish fake laughter from real, fake laughter can still create the same stimulating benefits as the real thing. So keep it up, even if you don’t feel like it.
4. Get some help
Does the senior under your care have a funny friend or family member? Now that the COVID-19 restrictions are slowly being lifted, you should encourage the seniors to invite them over for company and share some humour and laughter together.
Ask the family members, if you don’t know of any such friends.
5. Give yourself permission to be happy
Caregivers must give themselves permission to have fun even if those under their care are seriously ill. Happiness can be infectious, and a positive mindset can help the caregivers deliver the best possible care and help seniors enjoy the remaining years of their lives.
It can also disarm the caregivers from the diseases afflicting those under their care and hence help them understand it better.
Humour may not come across as an essential part of caregiving but laughter can help a lot in not only improving the mood and reducing the stress in the care environment but also creating medically proven positive health benefits. Caregivers may think that laughter may be disrespectful while caring for someone with a serious disease and struggle to find moments of humour. However, they should look at laughter as part of the care plan and must incorporate it daily into their interactions with seniors