Friday, September 28, 2012
Laughter is the Best Medicine
Watching a loved one suffer from dementia is devastating. It's not just about losing memory; it's about losing knowledge of everything they know-behavior, language, how to care for oneself, etc. Some days, dealing with dementia can be downright depressing. Sometimes I wonder how we're going to get through the sorrow as my mom's disease progresses.
My dad has always taught us to laugh. And he's always been a big tease. He always told us, "Don't take yourself too seriously."
In Susan's book (if you haven't heard about or read this book as a caregiver, click here, it's a must read!) she talks a lot about using humor to cope. I very much admire her positivity and her strategies in finding joy in the moment and looking for the humor in the situation. It's what gets you through with your sanity intact.
We have had to adopt that mentality somewhat with mom's illness. If we dwell on every crazy or embarassing behavior or every off-the-wall thing she says, it could put us into a full blown depression, because it's just so out of character for her and is very telling about the severity of her disease. We have had to learn to laugh at a lot of things.
Like when she occasionally "exercises". If she does the treadmill or takes long walks, she gets too sweaty. I know, that's the point of exercise. Try telling my mom that. She can't handle the sweat and it's "not good" for her. So, to keep active, she sits on the couch as she raises her ankles up and down, side to side, in a dancing motion. She usually does this while listening to Oldies on the satellite. Sometimes she will get up and stand on the circle rug in the middle of the living room and sway her hips side to side while walking around the outline of the rug, 'dancing'. The first time my sister and I saw her performing her exercises, we almost busted a gut laughing. Not to make fun of her; but it's quite amusing to watch. In fact, lately she has been feeling "more severe" and has not been doing her exercising; I actually miss it. I bet my 1 year old does too, as she'd sometimes grab his hands and try to dance with him ;)
When we are out at a restaurant (of course it has to be Miguel's or Outback), mom gets so happy when her food comes that she starts singing "yummy yummy yummy in my tummy tummy tummy." We just have to laugh at mom's childlike giddiness when she's happy. She has passed on this legacy to our kids and they will occasionally sing the song too; we always chuckle when they do.
Mom has no filter, so there's no telling what will come out of her mouth. She will tell you random things about her body parts and bodily functions, things from the past that you could've lived without knowing, random tidbits about her intimacy, secrets that she forgot were secret...whatever is on her mind. It can be downright embarassing at times, but we usually just have to laugh at the over-abundance of information that she shares. I could tell you some pretty funny stories in this department, but I think some might be a little too personal to share.
I know this may sound odd-to laugh at a time like this-but it is what keeps some sort of sanity in our lives. Whenever I think of dementia, my mind likens it to raising babies and children. I've said it over and over, but essentially that is what dementia looks like: a person growing backwards from adolesence to childhood to toddlerhood to infacy. My children say some pretty off-the-wall things and do things that constantly make me laugh. Just last week my son created a harness that he wrapped around his waist, hooked to the fridge and began scaling the fridge. It was a hilarious sight to see. Of course, after getting a picture, I had to teach him about safety and suggest that repelling off the fridge might not be such a great idea. If an adult did this sort of thing, we'd think it's crazy. But if it is a child, we think it's funny. That's how I look at it with dementia. Though my mom's behavior and escapades may be crazy for an adult woman to say or do, I am learning to look at her as a child and find the humor in the innocence of what she is saying/doing. I'm not saying everything is funny. But to get through this devastating illness, we have to find the funny and have a sense of humor!