Advice from a Caregiver – Embrace Humor

by Linda Downing, LPN – Oxford Night/Weekend Manager

In honor of National Caregiver Month, I want to encourage all caregivers to not forget one crucial thing—humor. You’ve heard the saying, “laughter is the best medicine” and I believe that saying to be true! I came to learn this important lesson while I was caring for my father.

My dad had been very healthy, and able to live on his own until he turned 92. After suffering a mild heart attack, he needed to have a heart catheter. He was prepped, given the “calming medication” and the doctors had successfully placed the catheter in the artery to make its way to the heart. But then, problems arose. The procedure didn’t go as well as it could have.

My three siblings and I were anxiously waiting in the waiting room when all of the sudden we heard over the loud speaker “Will the Barnhart family come to the consultation room.” I knew it was too soon for the procedure to be over! So, what happened, was our dad okay?

We met the doctor, with blood stained scrubs, in the consultation room. He told us as they were threading the catheter to our dad’s heart, our dad decided he was done with that procedure and did everything he could to get out of that room, as fast as he could! The doctor then said, “We are unable to continue this procedure because your Dad is out of control. He is fighting us and I need one of you to come in and help us”. My siblings looked at me, the oldest of the four, a nurse and “mom of the group” since our own mother had passed away some 30 years before, and decided I was the logical one to go. I donned some scrubs and followed the doctor.

Now, I had been in operating rooms before, but nothing prepared me for the task at hand with my own family member. My dad was yelling, flailing his arms and legs and fighting with every ounce of strength he had. My job was to hold his arms down and calmly talk to him. I soon learned that the mission was no longer to get the catheter up to his heart, but instead, to get it safely out of his artery. Thankfully, the doctors got the catheter out safely and gave dad more sedatives to calm him down. Let me tell you, after that experience, I felt like I needed a sedative!

When it was time for dad to leave the hospital, I brought clothes for him to change into. As he was getting dressed, he turned to me and jokingly said, “You mean to tell me you brought me brown shoes to wear with a black belt!” Then as we were leaving the hospital, he started having trouble walking down the hall. But then, all of a sudden, he started dancing down the hall! I laughed and was so relieved that he remembered nothing of the ordeal with his heart procedure.

Dad continued to keep his sense of humor and sharp wit. He joked with the home health care nurse we hired to help take care of him She asked what he thought about the Telehealth monitor, a monitor that checked his vital signs, and he said, “I really like it but I like you better! I hope that you will keep coming to see me!”

As a caregiver, it’s important that we remember to laugh, as well as cry. Dad gave us reasons to do both. He passed away a couple of years later, but we know he lived a wonderful, full life. Our memories of faith, love and humor sustain us as we wait for the day we will all be together again!