I think that one of the hardest things for any of us who has cared for a parent or loved one with Alzheimer's Disease is the knowledge that the condition has a genetic component. It's one thing to be there, helping someone else navigate once-familiar neighborhoods or making sure they've remembered to shut the front door. It's another thing entirely to contemplate needing that type of assistance ourselves. Caring for my Mother made me think about my own future in a way I never really had before. Perhaps you've experienced the same thing.
How Humor Helps Caregivers: Facing the Future
None of us know the future in advance. We can't peek around tomorrow's corner and see what is going to happen. Every day, it seems, medical science has a new theory on what factors contribute to Alzheimer's. A week doesn't go by that we're not told about the preventative measures we should be taking to stave off the disease.
The last time I checked, that meant more red wine, more chocolate, less red meat, more exercise, more sex, more intellectual stimulation, and less stress...one day, I tried combining all of these into a single afternoon. I don't think they're ever going to let my husband and I back into the TED conference ever again!
We'd all love to know that we, ourselves, will never struggle with Alzheimer's. Humor has a role to play in helping us face down the fear and anxiety that comes - sometimes below the radar, sometimes 'off screen', where we're not even consciously aware of it - that comes with being a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer's. Humor is the mechanism humanity has developed to process our fear, enabling us to move on and continuing function - especially in situations where we really have no alternative!
When I saw this image on Facebook this morning, I laughed right out loud. Yes: this little cartoon forced me for a moment to revisit those anxiety-provoking thoughts of "What's going to happen to me someday?" But at the same time, there's a message in there: life will go on. We will have good times. Things might change along the way, but we're still going to have fun. These messages are more important to who we are - more central to our well-being - and they help put the fear into a fresh, more manageable perspective.
Sometimes we feel like we should never, ever laugh about Alzheimer's, or the impact that this debilitating condition has had on our lives and the lives of our loved ones. In fact, the opposite is true. Humor is an important tool that allows us to be better, more present, and more emotionally stable caregivers - for our loved ones and for ourselves!