Lessons In Caring: Learning about Humor from Alzheimer's Disease

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • One of the things I’ve learned over the past nine months of caring for my mother as she deals with Alzheimer's Disease is to look for the humor in any situation related to my mom. Finding an opportunity to laugh provides an opportunity for stress reduction for me (and gives me a good story to tell others who care about my mom).

    For instance, I had to accompany my mom to the emergency room in late December to treat a hematoma that wouldn’t go away. So Mom and I proceeded to sit and sit and sit in the waiting room for the hospital’s emergency room. Of course, since she has Alzheimer’s, she as no concept of time, so we would repeat the same conversation over and over again. “When are we leaving?” Mom would ask. “What time is it?” About five hours later, we finally got called back into the inner sanctum of the emergency room.
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    It turns out the doctor who got Mom’s assignment was the same one who had seen her in early December when the hematoma came up. He fortunately had a playful sense of humor (much like me). I told him that it was Mom’s 50th wedding anniversary and he had to hurry so Mom could go out dancing. He looked at me quizzically and began asking my mom about her evening plans.

    After checking out Mom's leg, the doctor decided that he needed to drain some of the gunk in the hematoma. He went out of the room to get all the equipment (scalpel, disinfectant, gauze, numbing shots, etc.).

    So Mom is lying on the gurney in the emergency room patiently waiting when the doctor comes back in to begin the procedure. He starts to raise the entire bed so he can better see her leg (he's pretty tall) and Mom, lying in a prone position, innocently says, "I'm going up into the light." The doctor and I looked at each other and began cracking up....I explained to Mom, probably not the best thing to say in a hospital, for obvious reasons.

    Prior to dementia, my mom would have caught herself before saying those words. But now, the comments that she makes in various situations are potential stories that, unbeknownst to her, help her loved ones keep their own sense of humor during trying times.

    Share how humor keeps you going in our Alzheimer's message boards.
Published On: June 14, 2006