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Hospice humor gains a following

by Allie Shah, Star Tribune, 6 March 2017

Ms Shah reports on how American hospices are embracing “the power of humor to help cope with serious illness and to enjoy life at all stages.”

Roy Cato is dying. But that hasn’t stopped him or his caregivers from finding a way to keep laughing.

Whether it’s jokes about enemas (“the enemy,” Cato calls them) or his long-term planning (“I need a calendar”), he has embraced humor as a necessary part of life — even as he nears the end of his own.

“I’ve always kept it light my whole life, so why would I stop now?” he said, resting recently in his Minneapolis living room adorned with yellow smiley faces.

On this morning, he was joined by a few friends and by a hospice worker who shares his take on the power of humor to help cope with serious illness and to enjoy life at all stages.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, laughter is a useful and often used tool in hospice care, said Niels Billund, a registered nurse and case manager for Fairview Home Care and Hospice, who visits Cato at least once a week. In between checking blood pressure and asking medical questions, he chats up his patients, using his quick wit to engage them and, hopefully, induce a smile, too.

“People really want you to do what you do, but they certainly want you to see who they are,” Billund said. “Most of us like a good joke, a good laugh.”

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