Laughter - an alzheimer journey by sue scoggins

laugh |laf|verb [ no obj. ]make the spontaneous sounds and movements of the face and body that are the instinctive expressions of lively amusement.

Keep on laughing!   

Keep on laughing!



Have you ever laughed so hard that you cried?  Better yet, have you ever cried so hard with a friend that you broke into laughter?  What happened?

Laughter seems to relieve the tensions of stress, unlatch the chains of depression, and re-energize the last thread of exhaustion. There's nothing like a good dose of the PBS programs Car Talk or Wait!  Wait!  Don't Tell Me to make you laugh...or better yet, visualizing Jennifer Lawrence falling up those steps at the Oscars in that gigantic dress.

Today Jerry was sleeping at the lunch table.  Mary Beth and Jerry are both in their 60's and are seated together.  The other residents are in their 80's, 90's, 100's. Both, Jerry and Mary Beth  are unable to speak more than an occasional word from time to time.  Mary Beth is still able to eat with her utensils and usually cleans her plate.  "Hi, Mary Beth!"  I said. With her delightful eyes and raised eyebrows she sputtered a smile back at me.  Jerry, dressed in his maroon sweatshirt, still was sleeping with his head slightly tilted back and his mouth dropped open.  ...sort of like someone in the airplane seat next to you, head tilted back, mouth dropped open, snoring....accept Jerry was not snoring.  You wonder whether to wake them up or not.

Anyway, lunch was being passed out to all the residents.  Most of the inmates (oops.  I meant residents) were eating quite nicely, some with fingers, some being spoon fed.  Jerry continued to sleep in his seat.  Sitting next to Jerry, I chatted with the other residents and the staff  and said, "This handsome Jerry was a mega salesman back in his day. He could sell ice to an Eskimo.  Right Jerry?"  The staff smiled.  "In fact, he'd have them building fires in the snow  just so they would see that they needed ice.  Right Jerry?  Isn't that the way it was?"  I could see Jerry out of the corner of my eye, still sleeping,  "Right Jerry?"  All of a sudden he opened his eyes and, with a slight smile across his face, he leaned forward gingerly reached to pick up a glass of milk.  I said, "Yeah, Jerry.  Get that gin and tonic.  Back in the day, when we'd fly to those sales conventions those flight attendants would serve us gin and tonics with warm mixed nuts.  Look at those warm nuts, Jerry."  When I said "warm nuts" he reached over to his plate and picked up his chicken sandwich.  Doesn't that beat all!  And he didn't even know the difference.  We all howled laughing...not AT Jerry but FOR Jerry. .. FOR ALL OF US!

You see, whether the resident is aware or not, laughter sets the tone.  It determines whether its a depressing place, a somber place, or a happy place.  It seems to me a happy place would be a better place to live (or die).

Next time I'm going to try to remember the place where we stayed in downtown San Francisco while we were on a business trip. It's the one where Queen Elizabeth stayed. I remember how we'd have our G/T street side while we talked and people watched during cocktail hour.

So, try it.  Before you visit next time, find a memory or something funny to get you in the mood.  Make yourself laugh, some how, some way. Watch Alex Baldwin in it's Complicated or Jack Nicholson in Something's Gotta Give.  Your loved one will thank you for it.......or maybe not.