CAREGIVING: Humor? Laughter? At a Time Like This?

Humor — laughter — at a time like this?  I am sure that thought has crossed your mind as you go about your daily routine as a caregiver for your loved one.  It crossed my husband’s in the “long Alzheimer’s journey” that he embarked upon almost 8 years ago.  After all, without humor and laughter in our caregiver lives, we become like “zombies” doing our job without a thought about our own personal health.

We must have laughter. 

Laughter, like crying, is a form of catharsis. It provides an outlet for relieving feelings of stress and anxiety. Laughter can help “clear your head,” helping you look at a situation from a new angle.  

The benefits of humor on the human condition have been widely researched. Clinical studies have shown that laughter:

  • Lowers serum cortisol levels (a hormone that suppresses the immune system).
  • Increases an antibody called Immunoglobulin A, and increases Killer Cell activity – which attack and destroy abnormal cells. 
  • Increases the heart rate, while respiration becomes more rapid, causing a profound process of air exchange. This is the exhaling of carbon dioxide, with the replacement by oxygenated air, which in turn supplies oxygenated blood to the entire body, including the brain (a very good thing for improving our ability to cope with the challenges of caregiving!).
  • Exercises large and small muscles, including facial, thoracic, abdominal and pelvic, in particular. This activity creates benefits very similar to those of traditional exercise. This action allows fibers and tissues that make up the muscles to efficiently and effectively access the previously mentioned oxygenated blood, improving the health of those muscles.

Try the following tips for cultivating humor in your life:

  • Learn to laugh when facing life’s challenges. Rather than saying, “We’ll laugh about this someday,” look for the humor in the situation, and give yourself permission to laugh now. 
  • Seek out funny cartoons and articles online or in the daily newspaper. 
  • Create a humor file of cartoons, articles, and jokes you hear and jot down. Share them with others, including your loved one.
  • Realize that you can’t control the world around you, but can control your inner reality and perceptions. Use positive self-talk. 
  • Take yourself lightly. Learn to laugh at your situation, at your mistakes, and at yourself.
  • Memorize at least two jokes. Tell them to your loved one, your friends, and your support group. 

Joke of the Day (true story):

My Mom has Alzheimers. When I moved her into the “Reminiscence” wing of her assisted living place, I started to notice that things that are not hers were in her room. I nervously mentioned this to the lead caregiver, worried that others would think that she was stealing. She told me not to worry, saying the good thing about working back there is that even if that happens, no one remembers what is theirs, so no one notices anything is gone…and if they do, they don’t remember it 5 minutes later! No long-term grudges around there!
(author unknown)

Have you had any experiences with humor and laughter during your caregiving activities?  How have they affected you and your family?  What were the benefits that you observed?  Perhaps you would like to share these experiences with our readers.  If so, please e-mail me at It just might help someone else, going through a similar experience.


“Laughter gives us distance.
It allows us to step back from an event,
deal with it, and then move on.”

….. Bob Newhart

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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