“You’re a Cow”
By: Michelle Remold
Allen Kline once said that “Humor can be one of our best survival tools.” This is something I have learned through my encounters with people who have Alzheimer’s and dementia. You need to have a sense of humor. It can be hard to find humor in situations, but it can help lighten the mood. One of my favorite stories about having a sense of humor when it comes to Alzheimer’s has to do with my grandpa. My grandpa had Alzheimer’s through much of my childhood. Most of my memories of him are from when he was in the nursing home, as this one is. My grandpa had been in the nursing home for about three years at the time of this story and it really showed me why having a sense of humor is important.
We visited my grandpa every weekend. This weekend we had brought him up ice cream, his favorite treat. We were all sitting around a table eating when he started telling my mom that he was bigger than she was and that she should listen to him. My mom would respond with a smile, “No, I think I am bigger than you.” This went on for a few minutes before my grandpa told her he’d prove he was bigger and he stood up. My mom stood up after him. My grandpa’s eyes grew wide and he exclaimed, “Oh you’re right! You are bigger than me. You’re a cow!” We all started laughing. My mom looked at him and asked what he had just said, knowing he wouldn’t remember what he had just said. He replied, “I said you’re a cow.” My mom then laughed. What else could she do? Her dad just called her a cow. To him he was just saying what he thought. Looking back, this was the last time he ever repeated what he had just said. Had my mom not found some humor in this, it would have been hurtful. If you knew my grandpa though, this is not something he would have said and the manner in which he said it made it humorous.
I could write forever about the times I have had to find humor in situations while interacting with those who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. I have been teased, had objects taken because they were ‘collecting’ them, and have been yelled at for not being in school. Really, nothing surprises me anymore and I have learned to take it all in stride. I think that I am able to find the humor in these situations because I have also had those same individuals tell me how nice I am, how much they like my hair, or for that moment I saw the smile on their face because I was helping them complete their ‘collection’ of pop cans.
I know all too well that there isn’t humor in every situation and those situations can be the hardest to deal with. I think that being able to find even a little humor can make a difference. One thing my grandpa taught me is that I need to have a sense of humor. The sense of humor I have developed has come in handy when working with those who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. My grandpa showed me that things don’t always go the way you want, sometimes you simply need to laugh, and sometimes you just need to accept the fact that in that very moment, you’re a cow.
Michelle graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with her Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology: Social Sciences and a minor in Family Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Aging Studies and Nursing Home Administration from Minnesota State University Mankato.