The correct answer is – we had better!! Good humor is the health of the soul, and it certainly can make our lives more enjoyable. It’s sometimes hard to find things to laugh about in caregiving, isn’t it, especially if our loved one has advanced disease or is a grump? However it’s probably the most effective way we have of getting through the harder times and darkest moments. Humor is a coping mechanism that is important not simply as a diversion, but rather an essential requirement for preserving our mental and physical health. Humor in almost any form can spontaneously relieve fear, anxiety, anger and depression. It enhances our everyday quality of life and makes the whole caregiving experience better – guaranteed!! Medical experts say that laughter is as good for those who are sick as it is for those who care for them and want to stay well. Remember caregivers who laugh, last!!

Early in Stan’s disease we laughed a lot and we made fun of ourselves. Laughter did not change the situation or the progress of the disease, but it sure made it easier to deal with and helped ease tension. If I was young enough to have any memory left, I would give you some examples, but alas!! Just suffice it to say that we both loved to laugh and did– in spite of how our lives were changing. Stan has a fabulous, dry sense of humor that has always made me laugh. When he does not show it, I have more trouble coping and finding the humor in situations by myself. When his sense of humor appears and cracks me up, this difficult job is much more do-able. When I am able to laugh at something, he is much more likely to perk up and become more cheerful – especially if it is something uncomfortable for him. We feel closer to each other, less tense and are able to see things in a more refreshing way. As the disease has progressed and we have more difficulty, it is harder to find things to laugh about, but we are still trying.

I do remember one incident (yesterday’s) – I was attempting to clean up a mess and was trying to get Stan to stand up straight for a minute. I raised his arms over his head and I asked him to pretend someone above was pulling him up by a string. His comeback, while he was barely able to stand was, “Well, tell them to pull harder.” How can you not feel better when you both laugh?

Dr Seuss said, “from there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.” Everybody has a sense of humor, even if it’s not used very often. Sometimes it just seems to disappear, doesn’t it? But we can bring it back to life by really looking at the flip side of all aspects of caregiving – there is a funny side to everything if you look for it. Try to find something to laugh at EVERY DAY!!

Remember Henny Youngman? Take my husband — please!

Editors Note: Susan was caregiver to her husband Stan, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1980. He passed away on August 12, 2008 at the age of 73.

About the Author
Susan Hamburger earned a Bachelors Degree from the University of Wisconsin in Elementary Education, and two Master’s Degrees, in Educational Psychology and Biostatistics / Epidemiology. She has been a kindergarten teacher, a school psychologist, and retired as Bio-statistician at the National Institute of Mental Health.Susan has served on the Board of local Parkinson’s disease support group organizations since the early 1990’s. She has served Chair of the Patient Services Committee, Vice-President and President of the Washington DC area chapters of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association and the National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Susan has also spent many hours on Capitol Hill, lobbying our Senators and Representatives to increase the funding for Parkinson’s disease research.