Why Humor Is So Critical To Seniors And Caregivers During End- Of-Life Care

By Adrian Allotey posted 03-29-2021 12:00


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 seniors and caregivers alike 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 the senior or caregiver 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.

So, a family member could share a funny story from memories past. They could relay favorite jokes that were once told by the senior, or put on a comic film or television show that has special resonance for all involved. These attempts to invite humor into the situation can alleviate feelings of sadness, and bring to mind happy thoughts for all concerned. 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, the senior’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 seniors, 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 senior who is approaching their final days, and it can benefit all others who are caught up in this difficult life event. 

Remember, 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.




05-23-2021 22:45

@Tameka Lee, You are so right. I constantly remind myself; no agenda, no attachment to the outcome and absolutely no judgement.  ​

05-23-2021 11:17

Great post! I've been asked a lot how I continue to be in the end-of-life specialty since, it's so depressing and sad? My reply is that it's the patient's choice if they want their end of life to be viewed as sad not mine. I only can control my interactions and I pick the high road of a remaining as vibrant as possible since often the medical staff are the only ones they see on a day to day basis and this is comfort care. So I would think in this profession adding sadness and no laughter or joy would only aid in their decline.

04-24-2021 12:07

I appreciate the feedback.

04-05-2021 08:28

Loving this remainder to laugh more often and to try something new for my patients. I will definitely try it from now on. 

Thank you for sharing this information.

03-31-2021 10:56

When my mother was in hospice care, we were so fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people who picked up on her sense of humor. (My mother was one funny lady.)

Humor honestly made my mother's passing all that much more bearable at the time, and now, as I think about it a few years later, it brings wonderful, warm memories of that time. 

Thank you for this article. It's a solid read.