March 25, 2020

Has anyone ever told you that laughter is the best medicine? Turns out, they weren’t just pulling your funny bone! 

A growing body of research shows that laughing often and having a sense of humor can have some amazing health benefits for people of all ages, including seniors and family caregivers. 

So, what makes laughter such a powerful source for good, and what steps can you take to embrace humor as part of your caregiving routine? Read on… 

The Health Benefits of Laughter: They’re No Joke

Whether you’re watching a hilarious TV show or sharing stories with friends and family, getting a few laughs in can have some powerful short-term effects. Even better, making a point to laugh often may also improve your long-term health outlook. 

We’re not joking around here! In fact, the poker-faced pros at the Mayo Clinic, VeryWell Mind, and WebMD all agree. 

As the Mayo Clinic explains, laughter “is a great form of stress relief.” In the short-term, having a laugh “doesn’t just lighten your load mentally,” the Mayo Clinic explains, but “actually induces physical changes in your body.” In the moment, laughing can help: 

  • Enhance your intake of oxygen-rich air, which can help stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles
  • Release endorphins, a brain chemical associated with feelings of happiness and well-being
  • Decrease your heart rate and blood pressure, making you feel more relaxed 
  • Relieve some of the physical symptoms of stress, including muscle tension 

In the long run, laughing regularly and embracing your sense of humor can also have some powerful effects on your health and well-being. A variety of studies and reports have shown that a life full of laughter can help: 

  • Boost your immune system. Laughter and humor are serious stress relievers. Without this relief, stress can take a serious toll on your body’s ability to fight back against diseases.
  • Improve blood flow and circulation. Studies have shown that people watching comedies may experience easier blood flow than those who are taking in dramas; research has also indicated that laughing can help lower blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes
  • Help relieve pain. Endorphins and other chemicals released by laughter can act as “natural painkillers,” helping provide both physical and emotional release.
  • Improve your quality of life. Laughter has been associated with better sleep habits in some tests. Meanwhile, people who can find humor in situations may find it easier to connect with other people and enjoy the health benefits of being socially active. Humor can also make it easier to manage your response to difficult situations, and may help counterbalance some of the effects of depression and anxiety. 

Put on a Happy Face: How Seniors and Caregivers Can Embrace the Power of Humor

Growing older can come with its fair share of challenges for seniors. For family caregivers, the responsibilities that come with supporting an elderly loved one can also start to feel overwhelming at times. Finding little moments for laughter and joy can help make these difficult situations feel easier, and can help you refocus on the things that matter most. 

As a family caregiver, remember that there are all sorts of ways to look on the bright side and find ways to laugh with your loved ones. 

As former caregiver and talk show host Cindy Laverty put it to AgingCare

“We go into caregiving with this big, dark cloud hanging over us because it’s so stressful. When we go in with that attitude, it’s bound to stay that way. When we’re having a horrible day, we must remember that a good day is sure to follow. Even in the midst of those horrible days, there are funny moments that happen. Recognize and appreciate those moments.” 

Clinical psychologist, family therapist and healthcare consultant Barry Jacobs agrees, writing for the AARP: 

“Humor is a wonderful tool for people to use at times of stress. A shared joke unites people in laughter… As a caregiver, I realize that I don’t need to be an uproariously funny, lampshade-wearing comedian — it’s just not my nature. But I can be playful… since I think the ability to be amusing or at least amused can bring out the best in the loved ones we are caring for and make the job more fun for us, the caregivers.”

There are all sorts of ways to bring laughter, humor, and joy to caregiving. 

To bring some comedy and levity to the seniors in your life, help them enjoy their favorite funny TV shows or movies. If they’re up to it, look for local plays or performances nearby that will be sure to make them smile. Even sharing short internet videos of cats and dogs or hilarious news stories can help you and your loved one both smile and laugh together. 

Meanwhile, make time for shared stories and experiences. You may be surprised by the uproarious stories that your eldely loved one has stashed in their back pocket. Sharing meals or going on walks together can be a great time to swap stories and funny observations. You could also bring up a smile by going through old photo albums, or watching home movies that you still have on tape. 

As a caregiver, remember to look for all of the little joys and delights as they come. If your loved one cracks a joke, laugh together. Find little moments to be playful. Create inside jokes with your loved one. While it may seem daunting at times, try to look for the positives in difficult situations, and give yourself permission to laugh in moments that feel joyful or absurd. If you make a minor mistake or foible, be gracious with yourself and try to laugh it off. This can be a great way to break through any tension that you and your loved one are feeling in a stressful moment. Just remember to laugh together. Don’t make your loved one the butt of the joke, and make sure everyone feels included and respected. 

Need a little more inspiration to embrace laughter and fun as a family caregiver? We’ll leave you with the words of caregiving expert and author Amy Goyer

“Experiencing joy while caregiving isn’t always easy, but I believe it’s more than just a nice thing to do: It’s a crucial survival skill. Every moment of joy fills our tanks a bit so we can keep going. And a little bit of fun can go a long way to relieve stress, motivate, activate and connect — as well as relieve boredom.”

Looking for Help Keeping Your Loved One Social and Engaged?

Here at Companions for Seniors, we believe in empowering seniors to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships. 

Our professional companions can help provide support and care for the aging adult in your life. In addition to assisting with housekeeping, driving, and activities of daily living, our companions focus on building relationships, fostering an open dialogue, celebrating ideas, and always going the extra mile for our clients. 

At Companions for Seniors, our companions are passionate about caregiving, and truly find fulfillment and joy in working with others. Many of our companions come to us because they have prior experience caring for a loved one, which gave them the drive to be of service to others who need help. Our companions recognize that being able to connect and share a laugh with their clients are among the most amazing experiences they will ever have.

If you have a loved one who might benefit from some additional care and attention, we’d be happy to answer any questions and point you in the right direction. Get in touch online today, or give us a call at 866-910-9020 to get started.