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What's So Funny?


Can you find humor in caregiving? We know it’s necessary; we get advised to do it all the time, as a kind of emotional safety valve. When my mother was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, one doctor told me, “You’ll have to laugh at things that aren’t funny...” Of course--at tables set with two spoons but no forks, at car keys left in the refrigerator, and more. 

I believe that some of the humor that can accompany caregiving results from two things: perspective--and fatigue.  

Caregiving provides the perspective to reduce your other problems to the status of the petty annoyances they often are. You realize that a flat tire, a bloated dentist’s bill, a squabble at work, are not worth your extreme anguish. Which is good.  

Also, caregiving sometimes leads to loss of sleep, and that can cause you to make comical mistakes. Such as when I almost brushed my teeth with an anti-itch skin cream. Or when, making an early-morning trip to my condo dumpster, I began to toss away my briefcase and carry my bag of trash to work.

Sometimes, in the re-telling, even catastrophes yield a grudging humor, about the best intentions being frustrated by stubborn obstacles. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. “NO WAY!” I say. A little hard luck might “build character,” but tragedy hurts--a long time, if not indefinitely.

But it may also give us the wisdom to treasure the periods when we are calm, and when we are well. And to realize that we are fortunate to be loved--and lucky to be alive. 

Maybe this is the real “funny” thing about caregiving.



Back to Caregiving Perspectives

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