Palliative Care: The Power of Comedy and Adjustment

Death is inevitable (what a morbid way to start an article with the words care and comedy in the title!). It will happen to all of us. Yet, it is something that most are not comfortable with. Nobody truly knows what happens after we die, so we find different ways in which we deal with this certainty. We find solace in religion, spirituality, or in the comfort of our own lives in order to deal with it.

Is this too harsh?

My idea for writing this article was initially to discuss the concept of death and the various beliefs behind it. I wanted to do it in a serious, no-nonsense manner because death is serious. It affects everyone. We’re afraid of it, confused by it, and fascinated by it as well. But, that would have been a discussion of possibilities and philosophical differences.

I entered this article with a blank canvas and came across this video about palliative care, of which I never heard of before this. It is a form of care that places emphasis on the comfort of the patient. It places extra attention into communicating with the patient, in order to provide the most personal support for them. It’s desirable outcome is to improve the quality of life and care of the patient and is mostly used for those whom are terminally ill.

It is seemingly different than your average hospice and/or hospital, where emphasis is placed on what the medical field thinks is best over the opinions of the individual. Still, palliative care providers list the various forms of treatment that could be beneficial to an individual and allow the individual to suggest what is best for themselves.

It is not an alternative to traditional medicine but provides an alternate comfort that may not be found in traditional hospitals. The goal is to comfort the patient instead of treating them, allowing them to choose how they want to spend the rest of their days. Many hospitals are adapting this form of treatment as an alternative to other forms. Still, many believe that this pushes patients away from treatments that can be beneficial to them, while others believe it increases the comfort of the patient and reduces costs by cutting unnecessary medical treatments.

The idea fascinated me. The idea that empathy can be used in a way to make the lives of others better, more satisfactory while they’re still here.

All of these seemingly pointless cartoons and memes do serve a purpose, which is the power of the comedy. Comedy can be a cure, a coping mechanism. We tend to seek out the ones who can listen to us when we’re going through a tough time, but who can also make us laugh to take us away from our problems for a moment. Many use comedy, themselves, as a way to cope with things that are going on in their lives.

In India, where death is an especially taboo subject, the Indian Association of Palliative Care is using comedy as a way for the terminally to cope with their illness. I also dare you to watch that video, which is linked above as well, without feeling anything.

These individuals were helped by some of India’s stand-up comics to perform in front of others, bringing light to their situation while also providing laughs for not only others but themselves as well. Even in the darkest times light can be found. These terminally ill individuals are allowing themselves to let go of their stresses and fears, even if only for a moment. This also allows others to empathize and sympathize with them in a way that isn’t filled with sorrow.

The idea is that people will remember you for how you lived, even in the face of death. This experience will last forever in the eyes of the loved ones who are left behind. Facing it in such a courageous way is not only a way to comfort those that we love but also to help the terminally ill find some form of peace within themselves.

Comedy can be found in everything, even in death. We are often told to not take certain things lightly, or to take certain things seriously but comedy, in itself, is serious. It is therapeutic. We all seek it at times. Laughter heals, as they say “laughter is the best medicine.”

Well, maybe not all of the time