The acceptability of humor between palliative care patients and health care providers

J Palliat Med. 2014 Apr;17(4):472-4. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2013.0354. Epub 2014 Feb 3.

Abstract

Background: Humor frequently occurs in palliative care environments; however, the acceptability of humor, particularly between patients and health care providers has not been previously examined.

Objectives: To explore the importance and acceptability of humor to participants who are patients in a palliative care context, the study determines if demographics are correlated with the degree of acceptability, and examines the acceptance of humor by patients with advanced illness when interacting with nurses or physicians.

Methods: One hundred participants admitted to a palliative care unit or residential hospice were surveyed. Basic demographic data were collected, as well as responses on a five-point Likert scale to a variety of questions regarding the participants' attitudes about humor before and after their illness and the acceptability of humor in a palliative setting. Participants were also given the opportunity to comment freely on the topic of humor and the palliative experience.

Results: A large majority of participants valued humor highly both prior to (77%) and during (76%) their illness experience. Despite this valuation, the frequency of laughter in their daily lives diminished significantly as patients' illness progressed. Most participants remembered laughing with a nurse (87%) and a doctor (67%) in the week prior to the survey, and found humor with their doctors (75%) and nurses appropriate (88%).

Conclusion: The vast majority of participants found humorous interactions with their health care providers acceptable and appropriate, and this may indicate a opportunity for enhanced and more effective end-of-life care in the future.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • British Columbia
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Hospice Care / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Psychological Distance*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Terminal Care / psychology*
  • Wit and Humor as Topic*