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Caregiving and Laughter

When I first launched my radio show for caregivers, a group from AARP interviewed me and discussed the challenges of reaching family caregivers. One of them asked me, “Many people serve for years as a family caregiver, but somehow don’t identify themselves as such. How do you help people see themselves as caregivers?”

For whatever reason, the question struck me as funny. Lapsing into my best Jeff Foxworthy impression, I rattled off, “If you have a carpet cleaner on retainer, you might be a caregiver!” As they doubled over laughing, they remarked, “You and Jeff should do a whole bit on that!”

Jeff’s been a friend for many years, so I called him and asked if he would consider doing this with me. To my knowledge, he never loaned his famous “You might be a…” to anyone, but he surprised me by saying, “Sure, write out some jokes, and we’ll take a look at it.”

Laughing, I responded, “These aren’t jokes; this is my life!”

Taking this on as a mission, I compiled a list of ways to help people identify if they are, indeed, caregivers. Jeff and I did this on a video for AARP, and they still make me laugh. Here are a few highlights.

  • If you’ve ever changed a dressing while cooking turkey with dressing…you might be a caregiver.
  • If you’ve ever hooked up your dog to your wife’s wheelchair, just to see if it would work…you might be a caregiver.
  • If you’ve ever used Neosporin as a verb…you’re probably a caregiver.
  • If while at the grocery store, you’re the one asking for a price check on suppositories…you might be a caregiver.
  • If you’re on a first-name basis with the hospital security guard…you’re probably a caregiver.
  • If a hospital bed has never hampered your love life [because, according to Jeff, there’s no use wasting a semi-private room!]…you’re probably a caregiver.

Although humor can stave off painful feelings, genuinely funny moments in even dire circumstances continue to surprise (and delight) me. I once heard about a beloved church leader from a rural Southern congregation who passed away following a long illness. As a tribute, the music minister offered to have the choir sing the man’s favorite song at the funeral. Although the music minister was surprised to hear that the widow’s request was “Jingle Bells,” he agreed to perform the carol in the sweltering June heat.

After the eulogy, the choir sang out: “Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh.…” The crowd, dressed in summer attire, looked puzzled. Later, at the graveside, the music minister approached the man’s widow, took her hand and offered his sincere condolences.

Tearfully thanking him for the music, she tilted her head and remarked, “I loved the hymns and songs, but why did you all sing ‘Jingle Bells’?” Wide-eyed, the music minister replied, “You said it was his favorite song.” With a sad, sweet smile she clapped her hand to her mouth and laughed. “Ohhh, I am so sorry. I meant ‘Golden Bells’!”

Sometimes humor meets tragedy in strange places. Our challenge is to expect and enjoy it.

Comedians often see painful issues through “funny-shaped” lenses. From Seinfeld to Foxworthy, comedians challenge us to seek humor. When you watch a funny movie, see a comedian perform or read a hilarious book, stress can melt and endorphins rise. While caregiving is serious business, and we often shed bitter tears, life can be whimsical. Our challenge as caregivers may be to find the humor when circumstances are tough.

With an unparalleled journey as his wife’s caregiver for three decades, Peter Rosenberger has navigated through a medical nightmare that has mushroomed to 80 operations, the amputation of both her legs, treatment by more than 60 doctors in 12 hospitals, 7 medical insurance companies, and millions in medical bills. He hosts a weekly radio show on the topic, syndicated nationally and broadcasted worldwide. Rosenberger is the author of Hope for the Caregiver (2015) and Seven Caregiver Landmines and How You Can Avoid Them (2016).

PainPathways Magazine

PainPathways Magazine

PainPathways is the first, only and ultimate pain magazine. First published in spring 2008, PainPathways is the culmination of the vision of Richard L. Rauck, MD, to provide a shared resource for people living with and caring for others in pain. This quarterly resource not only provides in-depth information on current treatments, therapies and research studies but also connects people who live with pain, both personally and professionally.

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