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How often do you laugh?

by Senior Care Society on 02/19/2013 - 11:52 am

Tag: Energizing Tips in Bloom

As family caregivers and health and human services leaders...

 

We spend a lot of time in deep concentration and effort to meet a variety of serious tasks and responsibilities.  At times, some of the challenges we deal with can be quite sad or or hurtful.  This can be especially true for caregivers who support loved ones suffering with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

 

Maintaining a sense of humor can serve as an effective coping strategy to relieve caregiver stress. Laughter provides a vehicle to help you relieve stress and even stay healthier in your life. Laughter also serves to connect people, and social support is good for stress relief. Maintaining a sense of humor can remind us that our stress factors can be dealt with. In fact, laughing in the face of stress can help you feel better in a matter of minutes.

 

Humor was a personally effective fuel for me to keep going under tremendous amounts of stress and exhaustion while caring for my father.  During his final several months of life, my father had very limited cognitive ability as a result of a vascular dementia that he suffered as a result of a catastrophic heart failure event. 

 

One of the positive, and humorous developments that took place during that period is that my father ate food items that he never touched prior to dementia.  Throughout his life, my father had been a very finicky eater and mainly ate bland food - completely avoiding dairy, garlic, onions, or spicy food of any kind.  During my childhood, my mother and I enjoyed cooking spicy food or going out to eat for Italian food when my father was away on business travel.  

 

My father's final few months of life were filled with challenging and sometimes frightening support needs, yet my mother and I found amazement and humor in discovering the new things that my father would eat.  One day, after telling me that he was not interested in eating a garden salad, he started eating my mother's salad.  My mother's salad contained raw onion, shredded cheese and Italian dressing. At first, my mother told him that he was eating her salad and he would not like it. He replied, "so what" and kept eating.  My mother looked at me and then we both laughed while my father enjoyed every last bite of that salad with things that used to disgust him.  

 

Another funny story is that my father also discovered new combinations of food to enjoy.  He got to the point that he would refuse to eat a lot at meal time so I left containers of snacks on our kitchen counter which he could see and access freely at any time.  He would graze on the snacks several times a day.  One day, I made myself a chicken salad sandwich.  My father approached the counter and I asked him if he wanted one.  Although he said no, he took the container of chicken salad and opened the container of chocolate chip cookies.  He then proceed to take out two cookies like they were slices of bread and made a chocolate chip chicken salad sandwich.  Instead of being dismayed by his food choice, I cautiously watched him take a bite and I asked him how it was.  His response was "terrific" and he ate all of it.  I laughed and shared my excitement with him for making a new food discovery.  He laughed with me and it was a good feeling.  I later shared with some friends that I was running "The Dementia Diner."  This was a place where new, creative food combinations could be discovered.  

 

Practice Tip:  Laugh!  Do not hold yourself back from finding humor during your caregiving journey.  One important note - never laugh at your loved one or mock them.  Find ways to laugh with them.  Humor can be key to avoiding burnout. 

 

Go forth with laughter and care! 

                                                                 

Energetically yours,

Michael

 

Bloom Coaching and Performance LLC is committed to providing customized, person centered coaching programs and services that can positively transform the lives of as many caregivers and caregiver support workers as possible.

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