“What do we want?”
“Low flying’ airplane noises!”
“When do we want ’em?”
That may seem like just a corny joke (and it is corny, we’ll admit it) but it’s much more than that. It’s a creative way of caring for a parent with dementia.
There is no medicine that can cure dementia, no medicine that can prevent it. But all hope is not lost. Dementia caregivers are finding new and creative ways to supplement the care of their parents with dementia. One alternative method to improve their quality of life? Humor.
How can humor help me care for my parent with dementia?
Humor Helps Bridge the Gap
For starters, it helps by engaging your parent in a way they can appreciate. A recent study found that people with dementia liked slapstick humor more after developing dementia than they did when they were younger. They also have less appreciation for satire and absurdist humor compared to their contemporaries who don’t have dementia.
That’s why it’s good to keep your jokes simple and light. Your parent with dementia will likely appreciate a good, corny joke much more than a wry, satirical observation. Come prepared with a few of your childhood favorites and you’ll both be able to spend a few minutes laughing together to brighten the day.
However, you should also know that a common dementia symptom is an increasingly dark sense of humor. If your parent with dementia is starting to laugh at inappropriate or dark humor when they never did before, you can safely attribute that to dementia.
It’s important to keep that in mind because remember—your parent isn’t slowly turning into a bad person before your eyes. They’re simply suffering from a common dementia symptom. You don’t have to engage with them when they turn to dark humor but you also shouldn’t try to correct them or argue with them about it. One good way to manage contentious behavior in a parent with dementia is to change the topic instead of arguing, which will only upset them.
Q: What did they give the guy who invented the door knocker?
A: A no-bell prize!
Humor Can Heal
“Laughter is the best medicine” isn’t just a saying--it’s based in fact. Professionals in the medical field have long acknowledged the beneficial role of laughter and positive emotions in the treatment process.
It’s particularly helpful in dementia care because, as a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information points out, dementia patients and their families are often under considerable strain. Humor not only prevents the dementia sufferer from feeling isolated, but it can help them feel relaxed and happy in an otherwise stressful situation.
However, it’s important not to overdo it. That same study mentioned above pointed out that dementia patients can struggle with humor because of the “disharmony of information” that characterizes jokes. What makes a punchline funny to you might confuse your parent with more advanced dementia. A safe way to incorporate humor into dementia care is to start slow. If they become defensive or angry, it’s best to limit your humor.
Yesterday I saw a guy spill all his Scrabble letters on the road.
I asked him, “What’s the word on the street?”
Humor Keeps You Sharp
If your parent is showing early warning signs of dementia, you want to be proactive. You can start planning for the future by looking into assisted living communities and other long-term dementia care options. But you can also encourage your parent to keep their mind sharp to delay the onset of symptoms.
Humor helps boost brain health because it keeps the mind engaged. It also helps prevent other factors that can lead to dementia, like high blood pressure and stress, by keeping you relaxed and happy.
Did you hear about the actor who fell through the floorboards? He was just going through a stage.
Humor Reduces Caregiver Stress
Whether you are the primary caregiver for your parent with dementia or not, it can be a very challenging and stressful situation to watch your parent go through behavioral and physical changes. Dementia care can take a heavy toll, so it’s important to take time to reduce your own stress levels.
Humor is one avenue to reduce stress. Humor helps dementia caregivers by improving mental health, easing tensions, and even strengthening immune systems.
It’s important to keep your sense of humor when caring for a parent with dementia. Yes, there are going to be bad days. There are going to be times when your parent is feeling lost, frightened, confused, even angry. There will be days that get the best of you.
But through it all, remember to take some time to step back and enjoy the time you get to spend with your parent. Crack a joke, share a funny story.
Caring for your parent with dementia is no easy task. Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.
Person-Guided Care at The Esquiline
The Esquiline places an emphasis on personalized care. We treat the person, not the disease, so we take the time to get to know residents and what makes them smile. We know that your parent is not defined by their dementia. Rather, we focus on the person they are beyond the memory loss, mood swings, and confusion.
The Esquiline is a Life Plan community, meaning your parent has access to the proper level of care no matter what their needs are. With Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Skilled Nursing available all on the same campus, you never have to worry about moving again.
The Esquiline offers a wide array of educational, spiritual, creative, and entertaining activities designed to enhance residents’ physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. See what we can do to help you and your parent by calling us at 800-533-6279 or contacting us online today.