Humor, Hope and the Caregiving Experience
Old friends laughing together and having tea

As a health care provider and a person who has taken care of not one but two partners with cancer who passed away from their illness, the movie Patch Adams scares me. I don’t want to run into that guy and his big huge clown nose and his clown shoes and the bike horn anytime I’m not feeling my best. In fact, I’m not sure I’d want to run into him on a good day. Even my best day.

And sometimes when you start talking about humor and healing, people get scared because they think that’s what we’re talking about.

While not everyone loves loud slapstick, most people can find some way to use humor to help humanize and soften their caregiving experience.

Even without a clown nose.

Some first steps: Give yourself permission to laugh, There’s no question that a lot of caregiving is intense and deep stuff, the nitty gritty of life at its most bare. But that doesn’t mean you should be somber; in fact that’s all the more reason to laugh. So say it with me

IT’S OKAY TO LAUGH AT THE FUNNY PARTS

I’m sorry I couldn’t hear you: one more time:

IT”S OKAY TO LAUGH AT THE FUNNY PARTS

Hello, a little bit louder please

IT’S OKAY TO LAUGH AT THE FUNNY PARTS

Write this on a 3 by 5 card, write it on 100 cards, tape them around. Or write it on post notes, or make it the screensaver on your phone. Just don’t forget to remember that

IT’S OKAY TO LAUGH AT THE FUNNY PARTS

  • If you’re tempted to get frustrated about the caregiver’s equivalent of crying over spilled milk (maybe crying over spilled Metamucil) remind yourself that if it’s going to be funny five years from now, you might as well laugh about it now.
  • Realize that sometimes laughter releases anger in a way nothing else can, especially nothing else that you can do in a tight situation or in an interaction with a health care provider.
  • If you’re struggling to inject levity into a situation, remind yourself that when things are overwhelming, we don’t have the luxury of pessimism or hopelessness.
  • One way of finding the funny: call the moment. Meaning, when things are overwhelming, bananas falling apart, when you’re awash in your loved one’s body fluids and nothing has gone right, just describe what you see. I guarantee both of you are your loved one will end up laughing, at least a little bit.
  • Leave physical reminders of humor around your living space: cartoons you like, captioned photos that make you laugh, etc.
  • Turn a blank journal into a “ha ha” book, you and your loved ones can keep on the look-out for funny things that happened so you can write them in the book. You find a lot more humor when you’re looking for it.
  • Lower the bar on what makes you laugh
  • Make every Thursday night (or Wednesday night, or Tuesday night  or…you get the picture) comedy night at hour house. Make
  • some popcorn and watch funny movies or play funny games. Ask for recommendations from friends about funny movies.
  • Within your caregiving family team, commit to reminding each other to find humor.
  • Say it aloud every once in a while: “I am the funniest joke” If you can poke fun at yourself, you’ll never run out of material.
  • If people around you complain that you’re laughing too much, using humor to avoid serious truths (health care providers are famous for this) remind them what Carol Burnett said “Comedy is tragedy plus time” and add “it’s my tragedy so I get to choose the timing”
  • Finally, remind yourself that the corollary of “it’s okay to laugh at the funny parts” is “it’s okay to cry at the sad parts.” You don’t have to laugh when you feel like crying, but you can laugh when you feel like laughing, whether people outside of the situation understand or not.

Diane H. Wong is a content writer. Besides, she is a research paper writer at the service where everyone can ask to “write my essays” so she prefers to spend her spare time working out marketing strategies. In this case, she has an opportunity to share her experience with others and keep up with advancing technologies.

Written by Guest Author
The Caregiver Space accepts contributions from experts for The Caregiver's Toolbox and provides a platform for all caregivers in Caregiver Stories. Please read our author guidelines for more information and use our contact form to submit guest articles.

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