One day, several months ago, my mom and I were discussing our names. Specifically her initials: MAD. She said her mother made a mistake in naming her. But, the problem got worse when Mom got married and added an E to the first three, making her initials now MADE.
“And you know what that means?” She was giggling.
“No, mom, what does that mean?”
“Well, when I was in school, if a girl had been ‘made’, it meant she wasn’t a virgin any more.” (giggle giggle)
“Mom, I don’t think that’s so bad. You didn’t have those initials when you were in school. Look what you named me.”
“And our last name begins with EX. Say it all together really fast.”
“JaniceEX . . . sex?” (giggling)
“Yeah, the kids in school teased me all the time.”
(Giggle. Giggle. Laughter. Laughing hard. Laughing still harder. I can almost hear the tears falling from her eyes.) “Well, then . . .” Snort. “I guess we’re a couple of floozies.” (Laughing so hard she can’t even talk.)
Now, I was laughing with her. “Yeah, I guess we are.”
“We should get some sweatshirts that say, “I’m a Floozie.” HAHAHAHAHA!!
It was a hilarious conversation. And it was so good to hear her laughing. I know it lifted her spirits. I also knew in five minutes she wouldn’t remember the conversation. But, the shared chuckles were worth every second.
Yet, what about those times when she’s in her kooky ALZ mood and she’s wearing a bizarre outfit or telling “secrets” she has made up about hearing babies in the car trunk.
I confess, sometimes I find myself smirking and later laughing then feeling guilty wondering if laughing is okay?
“Alzheimer’s and Humor”, posted by Laughaways.com, whose official name is Laughter Works-Pathway to Healing, suggests “Laugh whenever you get the chance. Dealing with AD is not very funny so if something happens that is even remotely funny, let it rip.”
Caring.com lists five reasons when it’s okay to laugh.
- When you both realize something’s funny.
- When you need to let off steam.
- When you feel the need to lighten a heavy moment.
- When you want to normalize the reality of Alzheimer’s.
- When the absurdity of the whole situation strikes you.
But, there are boundary lines on what is funny and what is not.
The times Mom puts herself into danger are not funny. The times she feels over-anxious and cannot sleep are not funny. The times she admits she knows something is wrong but doesn’t know what and she is fearful are not funny. The times when she looks confused during conversations and I can see the pain in her eyes. Not funny at all.
But, for all those in between times, I’m going to indulge in some humor therapy. The power of shared laughter “may be just as effective as antipsychotic medications for reducing anxiety in elderly people with dementia.”
And in those of us who love them.
What about you? Do you laugh freely? Or are you more reserved? How do you deal with the stress of ALZ?