Recognizing The Role Of Humor In Patient Well-Being And Including It As A Surprising Tool In Your Hospice Care Kit
Pegasus skilled in-home caregivers in Palmdale and elsewhere assist clients of all ages and medical conditions. End-of-life care is one of the many services they provide. Our career home health care nurses include humor as a tool in their hospice care kit.
Humans just naturally respond to humor. Sometimes they simply smile. Others may giggle, let loose a belly laugh, or anything between.
Humor And Laughter Increase Well-Being
The medicinal benefits of humor are well-known. Although laughter doesn’t necessarily cure anything, it often makes people feel better. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed.
The positive benefits of laughter include:
- Increased oxygen intake: Individuals draw in more air when they laugh. That gives their internal organs a boost.
- Pain relief: Laughing helps the body generate natural painkillers. It also increases pain tolerance.
- Reducing depression and anxiety: Laughter releases feel-good hormones. Individuals feel better about themselves, which increases their ability to deal with health conditions.
- Strengthening the immune system: Laughter may only be temporary, but even fleeting positive feelings improve immune system function.
- Stress relief: Although it may be brief, people tend to relax and let go of tension when they laugh. Often, the sillier the joke, the greater the benefit.
As a nurse, humor can help you forge connections with your patients. It’s also an essential part of preventing burnout.
While what’s funny varies widely among individuals, some researchers describe types of humor as:
- Bodily (differs from physical as it focuses on bodily functions)
- Physical or slapstick
One type of humor may seem funny at one time and fall flat another time. So much of what’s funny depends on what else is going on in the person’s life at that particular moment. This means that nurses must always be aware of how their patient is feeling before doing or saying something funny.
Do Hospice Patients Appreciate Humor?
It’s a fallacy that humor has no place in hospice care. As a matter of fact, one study discovered that it was often the patients themselves who initiated humor. For them, cracking a joke served to help them accept and cope with their situation.
As with all healthcare, the objective of hospice care is to improve the individual’s quality of life. As one patient said, “If I ever needed humor, it is now.” In questioning patients and their caregivers, researchers learned that humor is helpful when:
- It created a feeling of having something in common.
- It was spontaneous.
- The caregiver was empathic.
- The timing was appropriate.
The humor created a feeling of “distance from death” for many. Surprisingly, even dark or negative humor eased the mind of some individuals.
What Is Humor?
Although humor can be objectively categorized, as noted above, what is funny remains subjective. You can find lots of definitions of humor. One definition describes it as “looking at reality from a different point of view.”
Laughing at a situation does not change reality. The value of humor lies in the ability to change the way a person thinks about reality. Any reduction in stress, anxiety, or worry about their health helps your patient.
Others describe humor as being able to laugh at oneself and what is happening. It’s a way of coping with life without being overwhelmed by negativity. Essentially, humor is an important way in which individuals have communicated with each other since time immemorial.
When Is Humor Appropriate In Hospice Care?
Of course, you never downplay your patient’s concerns. They must always feel validated by your responses. Although you can initiate humor at times, let your patient be your guide as to when it’s appropriate.
For some individuals, making jokes allows them to talk about death and dying. It’s totally subjective. You and your patient must be comfortable with what’s said.
Examples of when humor might be beneficial include:
- Accepting truth and adapting to reality
- Creating a sense of positivity
- Expressing feelings
- Gaining perspective
- Increasing confidence
- Inquiring about the meaning of life
- Overcoming fear of death
- Relieving feelings of hopelessness
- Resolving problems
The judicious use of humor can improve how patients and their families cope with end-of-life feelings.
Circumstances in which humor is inappropriate include when the patient:
- Appears to have been abused
- Does not want anything to do with humor
- First receives the diagnosis
- Is in the midst of treatments
- Is experiencing an emotional or spiritual crisis
- Is exhibiting uncontrollable pain, extreme anger, or distress
- Is in a coma, showing signs of death, or has died
These are all general guidelines. At all times, as a nurse, you must be able to discern whether a patient is receptive to humor. If you’re unsure, it’s best to forego levity.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our professional in-home caregivers in Palmdale and our other locations know the value of humor for their patients and themselves. Our career home health care nurses understand how to make humor part of their hospice care.