Turning a frown upside down isn’t always easy, especially when you are affected by, or care for a loved one with dementia. Getting the person to crack a smile can be difficult, let alone finding something or anything- that will bring both of you the chance to laugh together and have ‘fun’.
To help, keep reading for 4 golden tips to get you off the high-stress express and make laughter part of your daily caregiving routine.
As Plato said, “Even the gods love jokes”. If you are like most people, you may have your moments, are no comedian-per se! Jokes can be anything witty or silly, and by simply substituting a reprimanding comment with a laugh, do not be surprised when you get a mirrored reaction from your loved one.
An important factor to consider is actually the type of dementia affecting your loved one. A study has found that slapstick comedy is generally a “safe” bet, while satire or absurdist comedy styles may not be well received.
Believe it or not, elder care comedy services also exist and offer a novel way of increasing social interaction and boosting your loved one’s mood.
2. Sensation and Exercise
The University of Leeds found that a short daily ‘tickling’ of the ear in people over the age of 55 stimulates the vagus nerve and can lead to improvements in the autonomic nervous system for better health, sleep and quality of life. The scientists used small electrical currents in the study, but tickling the outer ear of your loved one or providing therapies like acupressure and short massage sessions may also stimulate their bodies constructively.
To emphasize the importance of physical exercise, caregivers must learn to expand their routine of walking, jogging, or chair exercises to include ‘funner’ alternatives like:
- Dancing together
- Trying out a ‘laugher yoga’ class
- Using fun tools like hoola hoops or soft balls
3. Make the most out of the Media
A Loma Linda University study found that seniors who watched only 20 minutes of comedic media showed decreased amounts of cortisol and an increase in the ability to remember new information. In fact, you treat laughter like a daily workout — 20 minutes a day to keep your emotions at bay!
To help you, take advantage of the different forms of media! Social media apps offering creative filters and games might be a fun pastime. Those “try not to laugh” YouTube videos might also do the trick and perhaps a comedy show on Netflix will fare better than watching the daily news. Your loved one may even have a favourite sitcom or game show they know and love, which you can use to improve their mood.
It is one thing to eat a salad once and another to eat healthy on a regular basis — with humour it is just the same.
It is not enough to experience levity and laughter with your loved one. You must actively attempt to incorporate it into your daily routine. As dementia progresses, your loved one’s humour may change and while they may not communicate as used to, their sense of humour is still there and you can use these tips to help harness it.
As a caregiver, humour and laughter can get you through some pretty tough times. While levity may not solve your problems, it definitely helps dissolve much of the negativity they bring. The tips outlined can help your loved ones forget about their impaired cognitive ability and make both of you happier.
With so many advancements in medical research, people affected by dementia are living longer lives. Thus, finding humour early in the diagnosis is an important part of a care plan. After all, laughter is the best medicine, so we should never forget to have our daily dose.
In the comments section below, share with us how you incorporate laughter into your daily routine. If you or someone you know is a caregiver and you are looking to add new tools to improve your caregiving experience, Memoryz can help-Check our website for more information.
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University of Leeds. “‘Tickle’ therapy could help slow aging, research suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190730083706.htm>.
Bains GS, Berk LS, Daher N, Lohman E, Schwab E, Petrofsky J, Deshpande P. The effect of humor on short-term memory in older adults: a new component for whole-person wellness. Adv Mind Body Med. 2014 Spring;28(2):16–24. PMID: 24682001.