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For Caregivers, Laughter is the Best Medicine

It’s no secret that caring for an aging family member can be a very stressful role. But that doesn’t mean that caregivers – and their loved ones – can’t spend a few moments of the day finding the humor in life. For caregivers, laughing can be a lifesaver.

According to research by the Mayo Clinic, data suggests that laughter really is some of the best medicine out there.

In the short term, laughter:

  • Enhances your oxygen intake, which stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles
  • Increases the production of endorphins, which helps relieve stress
  • Soothes tensions by stimulating circulation and muscle relaxation, which reduces the physical symptoms of stress.

In the long term, laughing:

  • Improves your immune system. Both positive and negative thoughts produce chemical reactions in the body. Replace that negative energy with the release of neuropeptides that fight stress and are released when the brain experiences positive energy, such as laughter.
  • Relieves pain. As mentioned above, laughter releases endorphins. These hormones work as a natural pain reliever because they produce dopamine that helps us feel happy and stimulated.
  • Improves your mood. Let’s face it – when you’re laughing, bad thoughts get pushed out of your mind. Not only does it help you cope with the situation at hand, but laughter also improves your self-esteem.

Medical research aside, anyone who has experienced prolonged laughter knows that it just feels good to giggle and joke with loved ones. To help you and your senior loved one manage the many activities involved in caregiving, here are some ways to introduce humor into your daily routine:

  1. Search for the funny. Whether you find funny anecdotes in articles to relate to your loved one, tell a joke or two, or watch comedies on television, set aside time during the day to simply enjoy one another’s company.
  2. Get online. There are endless appropriate videos of funny events on YouTube and other video streaming services that you and your senior can enjoy.
  3. Ask your loved one to tell you funny stories. Your senior probably has some funny stories from their youth they would be happy to tell. Most people don’t get through life without something hilarious happening along the way and reliving them can often be just as funny.
  4. Consider laughter yoga. Laughter yoga is a real practice where people laugh as a group. The laughter is forced, at first, but soon turns spontaneous. If you’ve heard the saying, “Laugh and the world laughs with you …” then you can understand the motivations behind laughter yoga.
  5. Laugh at daily life. Don’t be afraid to laugh when something funny happens during your daily routine. Caregiving can provide rich opportunities for the funny to simply happen and it’s not irreverent to laugh when it does. Just be careful to laugh with your loved one and not at them.
  6. Invite friends over. If you or your loved one has entertaining friends, feel free to have them over for lunch or dinner. Not only does having a new face break up the routine for a much-needed change but having a funny or entertaining exchange makes the visit that much more enjoyable.
  7. Get silly. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Try on funny wigs and outfits, dance around the room laugh out loud. Acting somewhat silly can often break up the monotony of daily life. And if it gets the people around you to laugh as well, then the more the merrier.

For most caregivers, this chapter in their lives and in the lives of their senior is often the last moments in time they will be spending together. Joy can be found in simple things: a joke, a shared funny moment or time spent watching hilarious videos.

The act of caregiving can often make you feel overwhelmed, anxious or even depressed. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects that are too often a part of caregiving, a good laugh can push those negative thoughts out of your mind and help you find the simple joy in caregiving.

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