Humor in caregiving for a loved one with dementia…you’ve got to be kidding!

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maryfridleyBy: Mary C. Fridley RN, BC

The immortal humorist and writer, Erma Bombeck, wrote a book, If Life is a Bowl of Cherries what am I doing in the Pits? Her humorous look at life’s ups and downs brings true meaning to the saying: attitude is everything. Along the way in life we have all chewed on a fair amount of pits and it is the foolish person who thinks they never will – just ask a caregiver.

Finding the humor in caregiving is a cherry – albeit, a bittersweet one. Humor in caregiving abounds everywhere whether it is Mom wearing her bra over her blouse or a husband using the flowerpot as a urinal. I have heard many caregivers’ stories over the years and I am always heartened by their abilities to find the humor in caregiving.
In one of my workshops a caregiver had a revelation about the cause of her husband’s shocking behavior. They had traveled to a beach resort and were relaxing from the long journey when he got up and started checking all the doors and windows. He opened the sliding door and walked out to the balcony. She didn’t think much of it until she heard a ruckus from below. She now understands that he had been looking for a bathroom! We laughed with her at the mental image of her reaction but she said it wasn’t so funny when the police arrived. This brave woman could have chewed on the pits of anguish and embarrassment but chose to spit them out and enjoy the juicy bittersweet fruit of the humor in caregiving.

Not long ago I lost a dear friend to cancer who was caring for her elderly mother. She had her good and not so good days but always maintained a positive attitude and her sense of humor in caregiving. One evening she called me to vent her frustration over trying to keep her mother on track. During our conversation her mother descended the staircase clad in nothing but pantyhose and pumps and asked her daughter if the hose matched her outfit. My friend didn’t miss a beat, whistled, and said, “Yes, mother they’re nude, they match perfectly.” My friend could have focused on the pit of frustration but chose to enjoy the bittersweet flavor of absurdity and thus enjoyed the humor in caregiving instead.

Mark Twain once said, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” So, laugh at yourself, at the situation and by all means laugh with your loved one.