March 9th, 2011 at 5:18 am
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Meaningful visits should include some laughter and smiles

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Humor has many positive effects on the body. The benefits of humor are numerous and relieve some of the effects of a stressful situation. Bringing a smile to the face of a loved one can sometimes be the best possible medicine for both of you.

I always smile when I recall a visit to the nursing home where a relative’s mother had lived for several years. She may not recognize the family members any longer when they came to visit but you knew she was glad you were there. It was very obvious it made her feel good to be surrounded by those who cared about her and you could not help but feel better being there with her. Walking the journey with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia provides each of us with many opportunities including our own personal growth.

One grandson had learned how to do some magic tricks and at least once a week he would perform for his grandfather at the nursing home. Others learned about the boy’s talents and he usually had an audience for his shows. His grandfather spent a lot of time between the visits bragging about the talents of his personal magician. Other family members who were less comfortable being in a nursing home found that coming for the magic shows eventually helped them to visit on their own.

One daughter knew her mom could no longer read books but she could still read aloud. Her daughter would bring in some funny jokes she thought might be appropriate for her mom and had her read them aloud. They decided to put them in an album and mom would often entertain other visitors with her personal joke book. The collection was still growing and some of the other residents would pass along some they found. Perhaps a group of them will get together and create a weekly sharing of jokes. Remembering them was not important, just the laughter and friendship based on some lightheartedness.

One son found some of his dad’s favorite comic books from childhood and added to his collection for each birthday. When the grandchildren came to visit they would often keep busy reading them and these books provided some interesting conversation starters.

Find out what tickles a person’s funny bone. Is it a certain comedian, a favorite movie, or a certain late-night TV show host? Often an older adult no longer has the ability to pull together these resources so see if you can find a way to help them out.

One grandmother looked forward to periodic outing with her daughter and granddaughter. They would often go out for a lunch then come back to her room and watch a recently released animated movie complete with popcorn or candy. The grandmother’s endurance no longer allowed for her to sit in a movie theater so this suited her well. If she falls asleep, they let her rest, stop the movie, and then pick up where they left off after her short cat-nap. For additional ideas, refer to Creating Time Well Spent: Enhancing Your Visits with Older Adults

What makes you laugh? If you are a caregiver, humor is a great way to reduce some of your stress. When you are less stressed, it is possible that even the little glitches during a visit will not interrupt the time you spent together.

“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.” Jean Houston

Posted in Assisted Living, Caregiving, Health, Nursing Home, Stress, Support | No Comments »
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