Alzheimer’s Humour


Q: Good Day Nurse Posvar. I am a nurse myself and I do see patients with dementia in the community. I find it very sad these conditions and how hard it is for the families to manage all the care. It is very depressing at times. However there is one family I work with that does seem to be as sad about it. They make jokes and seem to carry on as if life has many gifts. I do not know if life would be so happy for me if this were my mum with Alzheimer’s. I know we would have happy moments but it is still so sad to me. How does one find a way to make jokes of Alzheimer’s?

A: Life does not have to be so gloomy with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. True it is so very sad to be stricken with this disease and to watch your loved one vanish before you. It might seem counter-intuitive but these are times when humour is most needed. Does being angry, frustrated and miserable change the outcome? It can be very healthy to look at the funny or positive side of things whenever possible. This can be good for you and your loved one.

The family you work with that makes jokes is in compliance with research that shows over 75% of recurrent cancer patients and those facing terminal illness said that maintaining a sense of humour was very important. I would ask that family to share their stories with you.

A lot of families may feel guilty for seemingly being mean or disrespectful to their loved one if humour is played out. But in truth, being a great caregiver is to let yourself laugh and to encourage laughter in your loved one. Besides, you are not laughing at them, you are laughing at the funny, ridiculous or ironic situation. It is even funnier when they laugh about it.

A suggestion I have for you is to keep a journal all of the ironic situations and the quotes they make. You can write a book about it. If you are a family member, writing the stories down is very healing even when you go back and read them, as you will see that the new life you have with your loved one is and was not all miserable. I do hope that you can find laughter in your work.

Q: Ms.Posvar, my question is simple. What can I get my aunty who has Alzheimer’s, for Christmas. I don’t think she knows me any more.

A: Your aunt may not know your name but she will be familiar with your presence. A wonderful gift would be to spend time with her. Gifts are not all about things. Commit to spending time with her on a regular basis whether it is once or twice a month. You can accomplish two gifts. One is for your aunty and one is for her caregiver. If she has a family caregiver then this time you spend will give the caregiver a beautiful needed break.

A half hour of your time with a person who lives with dementia is valued time that most people do not consider. Most people with Alzheimer’s report in their earlier stages that they do not want to be alone.

I can remember a time I was managing a Memory Care Unit and it was time for me to do an evaluation on a resident who loved classical music. She was always taken to her room after meals as this was thought to be calming for her. It was true it was calming for her. But when I went to talk to her she was in tears. I asked her what was wrong. She tearfully said there was no one around. This was a woman who lost a lot of her language skills. From that moment on she was not taken to her room after meals. Instead she stayed out and participated in activities she often heard outside her room. It was amazing to watch her come alive by being around other people. She laughed and had a lot of great one liner comments that brought a lot of laughter to other residents and the staff.

From Daily Caring ~ “Something cute. I came home yesterday from work and Mom came out to the kitchen to greet me. I said, “Mom, you have on my sweat pants!” We each have a pair of soft, comfy pea green sweats. Hers are a size 14 and mine are a few sizes bigger! She says, “I thought I had lost a lot of weight!” Then she pulls up her shirt to show me she had them pinned to her bra to keep them up! We had a good laugh!”

Happy Holidays~
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