Are Laughter and Humor Healthy for those with Alzheimer's Disease and related Dementias and Their Caregivers?
Thirty six (36) MILLION people live with Alzheimer’s Disease, and there is currently no cure. This is staggering! Researches are on a search for solutions to prevent the disease as well as treatments for those who develop the disease. They are also investigating how best to support the caregivers.
What is the best we have or know about prevention?
We know the best ways to prevent any disease or illness to be at our best-body mind and spirit. While there are many things we can talk about for care of the body, mind and spirit, today is about laughter. Laughter and humor is healthy for the body, mind and yes, even the spirit. Humor is one of our basic spiritual needs.
Alzheimer’s Prevention with Laughter
It is believed that we can start to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease by keeping the brain engaged and growing new brain cells. Here’s the good news: Playing, laughing and keeping our bodies active is a great way to do this! If you can add a bit of a challenge to these activities, it is even better for the brain.
Health Benefits of Laughter
Laughter has a wide range of health benefits which can aid in Alzheimer’s prevention. Benefits of laughter include:
• Heart disease prevention
• Lower stress hormones
• Ease of anxiety and fear
• Increase in social interaction
• Lower blood sugar levels
• Strengthened immune system
The Benefits of Laughter for Caregivers
The health of caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementia is paramount to overall health of the family and society as a whole. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s Disease, 80% of Alzheimer’s patients are being cared for by caregivers at home according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also known as CDC. Caregivers make many sacrifices in their lives to care for those they love. These sacrifices can impact their overall health including physical, mental, spiritual and relational. The advent of self care for caregivers is here, although any caregiver will tell you how challenging finding time to take care of their own needs is nearly impossible.
Caregiver Stress: Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias
Caregiving is stressful even under the best of circumstances. Many caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s Disease have little preparation and many major life changes, yet want to succeed at providing loving care to their family member. Some feel guilty for laughing or finding humor at all given their situation. I’ve heard caregivers say, “I’m too tired to laugh,” “I feel guilty laughing when at anything because it would appear that I don’t understand the seriousness here.” More good news! Laughter is okay. Finding humor, even in some behaviors and situations is okay too. Often, it lightens the burden and encourages the person with Alzheimer’s Disease to laugh too! Laughing WITH versus laughing AT are two different things of course. In my upcoming book, Just See Me-Sacred Stories from the Other Side of Dementia, families actually found laughter and humor to be incredibly healing, and tended to normalize their lives even for a few moments. The times they shared a laugh became special moments for them.
Laughter can help caregivers cope by:
• Reducing stress
• Promoting mental health (‘feel good’ hormones are actually secreted when we laugh)
• Strengthening family relationships- sharing laughter is sharing a bond. It helps to build emotional intimacy.
• Laughter strengthens the immune system, and this helps to keep everyone healthier by fighting off disease.
• Easing tension and lightening the mood
• Allowing them to enjoy the moment. Yes, Alzheimer’s Disease is a serious situation, but we don’t need to be grieving 24/7. Taking a little time out to lighten the mood is a blessing.
The Benefits of Laughter for those with Alzheimer’s Disease
Confusion, depression, anxiety and frustration are just some of the challenging emotions people who live with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias can feel. Aggression and erratic behaviors can result.
Laughter can be an equalizer and diffuser for people with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.
• Allow them to redirect negative emotions
• Ease depressed feelings, even for a short time
• Reduce aggressive responses
• Lower stress and anxiety
• More enjoyment in social interaction.
Has laughter benefited you or your loved one with Alzheimer’s?
Share your story in the comments below.