Remember to Laugh

Our expert, caring staff is the HEART of our community.
The HEART™ philosophy is a cornerstone of Maplewood Senior Living and is a main focus of how we train our staff to provide the best care we can for our residents. We believe that being in the moment with our residents, is what it often comes down to and our exclusive relationship-driven HEART™approach allows us to do just that.

Giving our staff the green light to joke and use HUMOR with our residents to create moments of laughter, joy and levity to otherwise challenging situations is empowering. Having EMPATHY for our residents due to their diagnosis and the sometimes challenging situations that they face on a daily basis, helps to keep us grounded as Maplewood Senior Living team members. Giving the residents the AUTONOMY to do as much as possible for themselves allows staff members to help them in a way that is dignified and RESPECTFUL. Gaining the TRUST by building emotional bonds with residents through the heart philosophy, rounds out the mindset of creating an environment of supported independence for those that call our Maplewood Senior Living communities home.

While all of these points are key components of providing the very best emotion-based experience to the residents we serve – humor is a key ingredient of this philosophy- reminding us all to laugh.

Rolling laughter in to everyday care situations is key to friendly, productive interactions, and lightened moods. Benefits are felt between team members and residents, as the health benefits of laughter are many, see some of the examples we’ve found below…

  • We stretch muscles throughout our face and body when we laugh
  • Our pulse and blood pressure go up when we laugh
  • We breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues when we laugh
  • It’s like a mild workout – boosting heart rate
  • 10-15 minutes of laughter can burn 50 calories
  • Some studies have found that better sleep is achieved after watching a round of comedies

William Fry, a pioneer in laughter research, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.

comic strip

Consider the following story that was shared in an AARP article by Dani Klein Modisett…

My mother’s adjustment to the coast, after spending most of her life in Manhattan, went more smoothly than anyone expected. Despite her struggle with Alzheimer’s, the first 10 months at her new senior residence in Los Angeles went off without a hitch. 

Then around the one-year mark, something changed. I’d show up and find her sitting away from the group, her head dropped to the side, surrendered to the forces of gravity and a desire to sleep. When people talked to her, she looked blankly into the distance. She had lost interest in food, one of her great passions. I started to doubt my decision to uproot her from the Upper West Side.

I knew there were senior services that provide companionship — but I wanted something else for my 84-year-old mother. I wanted someone who could make her laugh. I was a professional comedian for years, but when she looks in my eyes, she just sees a daughter she can’t communicate with anymore. I took to social media. “Looking for a funny person with an interest in geriatrics. Paying gig. Part time,” I posted. Within minutes the phone rang, a friend from New York. 

“Call my friend Sue. She’s a comic — was, she’s kind of over it now. She wants to work with seniors.” I phoned Sue immediately. She has one of those rare voices, equal parts warmth and candor. We made a date for her to meet with my mother. 

Introductions

“Mom, this is Sue,” I said, steering her wheelchair so we could sit close together. 

“What’s up, Muriel?” Sue asked. My mother stared ahead. Without missing a beat, Sue moved to make eye contact with her. My mother looked away. 

“You don’t want to talk, do you, Muriel?” Nothing. 

“I get that.” Sue said. “Some days I don’t want to talk, either. When someone gets in my face I think, ‘Schmuck, do I look like I want to talk?’ ” 

My mother turned her head back to Sue and smiled. Sue repeated herself, this time with a little more moxie. “Schmuck, do I look like I want to talk?” 

My mother smiled even bigger, then laughed and blurted out “schmuck!” like a kid getting away with something. She looked at Sue for a reaction. Sue laughed heartily and then, like any comedian, topped her. “Hey, schmuck! Do I look like I want to talk?” she asked, bigger, like a character from The Sopranos. 

“Schmuck!” my mother yelled back, laughing so hard she almost couldn’t get the word out. I looked around, feeling slightly self-conscious by this schmuck-off: Maybe people nearby wouldn’t appreciate it. Except the two of them were having so much fun. 

A comedian. What a perfect fit for this job. Who better to be in the moment, to draw someone out and, after years of dealing with hecklers, be undaunted by the volatility of a person in the grip of Alzheimer’s, a brain disease with no known cure that affects some 5.7 million Americans? 

They paused to catch their breath. “You want some water?” Sue asked my mother, holding the glass toward her. She nodded. Sue held it up to her lips. I turned my head, catching a tear with my finger — not so much from sadness, but from one of those Oprah “Aha!” moments. It suddenly became clear that when rational thought, memory and language are gone, the only thing we have is the present moment. And the greatest gift you can give anyone in this state is to do your best to fill the moment with laughter. 

Our advice: incorporate laughter into your day-to-day. Surround yourself with friends and family that you enjoy being around. Joking around and laughing boosts mood, in addition to all of the other health benefits listed above. Want to learn more about our Maplewood Senior Living communities? Contact us to schedule a tour. We’d be happy to show you around.

 

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