Why Humor is so Critical During End-of-Life Care

Adrian Allotey

Why Humor is so Critical During End-of-Life Care

Adrian Allotey

This article originally appeared on the You Are Not Alone Elder Care blog. Edited and used with permission.

Charlie Chaplin once said, "a day without laughter is a day wasted."

This is true for us all as laughter can boost our morale, remove us from our stresses, and give us momentary relief during times of darkness and pain. And this is especially true when it comes to end-of-life care. You see, while the prospect of death is sad, difficult, and sometimes overwhelming, a little bit of light comedy--no matter how ill-fitting it might seem--can do much to lift the spirits of families and their dying loved ones during this most stressful of times.

Of course, there has to be a balancing act. When emotions are running high, sensitivity is needed. There are moments when an ill-timed joke could offend rather than uplift the other person. If someone is unwilling to find laughs during the end-of-life process, then this has to be respected. However, done correctly, there is value in using humor.

Share a funny story from memories past or relay a favorite joke that was once told by your loved one. Put on a funny film or television show that has special meaning for all involved. These attempts to invite humor into the situation can alleviate feelings of sadness and bring to mind happy thoughts for all involved. After all, for the person who is dying, this might be better than having to live their final days surrounded by a lot of sorrow.

Humor can also offer a humanizing dimension during the end-of-life care process. For seniors who are unwell, and perhaps unable to feed, dress, and wash properly, they can feel dehumanized by the whole experience. However, if the caregiver is able to smile and make light of embarrassing situations with compassionate humor, a person’s end of life will be a far more respectful and humanized one. They will feel like an individual again and less like somebody who is an inconvenience to the person doing the caring.

On a scientific level, it has also been found that humor can alleviate pain. This is because of the endorphins that are released into the brain when laughter and feelings of happiness arise. We aren’t only referring to the relief of emotional agony that the dying, family members, and caregivers might be going through as the release of endorphins can, according to researchers, control physical pain too.

Humor can act as a release valve for everybody involved in the end-of-life process. Emotions will be running high, people will be experiencing great amounts of stress, and conflicts could happen. But with a little bit of humor, tensions can be relieved, people can draw together as one in laughter, and there will be a greater ability to cope with the sadness of the situation.

So, should you be faced with an end-of-life situation, don’t be afraid of bringing humor into the equation. It can benefit you, it can benefit the person who is approaching their final days, and it can benefit all others who are caught up in this difficult life event.

Remember that a day without laughter is a day wasted, and when it does come time for the end of a life you don’t want to waste those precious moments you have with your loved ones.

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