The Power of Humor in Caregiving

The Power of Humor in Caregiving

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Mr. Biz Radio: The Power of Humor in Caregiving

Unedited transcription of the show is included below:


Welcome to Mr. Biz radio, Biz. Talk for Biz owners. If you're ready to stop faking the funk and take your business onward and upward, this show is for you. And now here's Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth.


All right. Welcome to another episode of Mr. Biz Radio, with me, Mr. Biz Ken Wentworth. And this week, we're going to talk about a topic that we all need to prepare for. Honestly, I mean, it's becoming more and more prevalent, especially as baby boomers continue to age. And we're dealing with a lot of the situations where you may get into a role where you need to be a caregiver for someone in your life, whether it be a parent, a relative of some sort.


And so we're going to have our guest this week talk about this, but he has a very comedic approach to it. Not that this is a funny topic, but he has a lot of anecdotes because he went through this with his own mother. And to give you an idea of the comedic approach, he actually wrote a book about it, and it's called A Cup of Tea on the Commode. And we're going to definitely ask Mark about that. But our guest this week is Mark Steven Porro. He's an award winning designer, writer, and director.


He has written lots of jokes, several screenplays, and one award winning short film and A Cup of Tea on a Commode. His book, a sad, sweet, and funny debut memoir, chronicles his multitasking adventures of filling his mother's last years with love, laughter and joy. Though not always successful, he came pretty damn close. Mark also started five nonprofit companies, but hold the applause. None were intended to be nonprofit.


He now lives in the south of France. But hold your pity party. He is of sound mind and body, chose to suffer in the heart suffer in the heart of wine country, where the locals insist his French isn't so bad. At least that's what he thinks they're saying. Mark. Welcome to Mr. Biz Radio.


Thank you. So much


Mean. Before we dive into know again, I don't want to make again, I'm not trying to say this is a funny subject, right carrier that is very not necessarily a fun experience. And I know even our producer is going through that with some stuff in his family where he's having to take a role with some of that. So it's definitely not something that's funny. But I think your approach to this brings some humor and levity the situation of something that can be stressful and challenging. But before we start to dive into all that, mark, tell us a little bit about your journey. You've done a lot of amazing things. It sounds like that led up to becoming a caregiver and writing this book.


Well, I think that my life experience all played a part in this. I grew up in a very nurturing home. Both of our parents taught us how to care for others. And they both had a very interesting senses of humor, which luckily they passed down. They had six children and all of us are pretty goofy in our own way. But their approach to any, I think, crises was to somehow infuse humor to it because it helps, I think, anybody get through some of the tough time, we all face those tough times. So this all began with my mom.


I got a call in February 2011, about nine days after her 89th birthday. And my brother called and said she was kind of on her deathbed. He brought her home from a seniors center where she spent her afternoons and to keep some activity and stuff going. But she was living in the home that we all grew up in and we had some people in the house kind of overseeing household duties and stuff. But at that point she didn't need any personal care, really cooking and cleaning and shopping and stuff for her because I don't think she could no longer drive at that point.


But she just shut down. She seemed to be very depressed and she shut down. Her doctor cut off all meds and food and hospice was called. And I kind of freaked out because 14 years earlier hospice was called and my father died two days later. So I flew in the next day and all her kids came in in the next couple of days and we were on death watch. We had a Catholic priest come in and deliver the last rites. And the directive from hospice was no food, no drink and no medications, and let her go. She's transitioning, so we all stayed there and one of us always slept in the bed with her.


And hospice was there quite a bit. So my younger sister and I really hung out with hospice because we wanted to take over as much of the care as we could because we had no idea how long mom was going to be with us. But we wanted her to know that her kids were there and we were going to take care of her. A few weeks later, nothing really changed with her. She would open her eyes every once in a while, but she would stare in the corner of the room and not speak any words. But there was somebody or something calling her and she wouldn't talk about it until later on.


So a couple of weeks in, one of the hospice nurses came in and she broke the rules. The rules were no food or drink. And she saw our mother laying in bed and my mother's eyes were closed and she said, Are you hungry? And my mother's eyes shot open for the first time in weeks. And then this lady accused us of starving our mother to death. And then she went in. She called her supervisors and repeated the accusation. And the supervisor said, Listen, you broke the rules. Get out so she left in a huff.


And now I'm thinking, oh, my God, are we starving our mother to death? So I go into her room and I said, mom, are you hungry? She says, well, what do you got? Again, the first words in weeks. So I said, anything you want. And she said, how about some pumpkin pie? Well, at this time it's March, not exactly pie, right?




My brother, who lived locally, I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and this took place in New Jersey. He took the challenge and went out and by some small miracle came back with two fresh pumpkin pies. And she spit out the first spoonful. We thought, well, that didn't go so well, but it was the first food in weeks. And then we tried again, and she did great. She ate half the pie. The next day, she ate the other half, and the next day she ate the full pie.


So two pies in two days. And then she moved on to Sherbet. And then after a few weeks of Sherbet, she moved on to Sugary Oatmeal. So this woman was a type two diabetic and maybe riding the most continuous sugar high we've ever seen. But she was back. She was awake, she was alert, and it was great. So we said, we're not going to change a thing. There's still no medications. She's on a high sugar diet, but she's awake and she's our mom, and we're back.


So that was a great sign. And so I think and I have a chapter in the book called Silent Scream. I think it was a cry for help. She wanted her kids or some love to come back and take care of her. She wanted the house that we all grew up in. It was very different from the warm, welcoming home that we all grew up in. And so I took it upon myself. I stayed with her for a number of weeks, and then slowly but surely, by the end of the year, I decided to move back.


And I asked her for permission. I said, do you want me to come back here and make sure you're cared for in the best way possible? And she said yes. And I said, well, if I do that, that means I'm in charge, and that means you must obey me. And her mood completely changed, and then she puckered up for a kiss, and I wasn't sure if that was a sign of surrender or a wishing me luck.




So I gave her a kiss and hoped for the best, and it turned out great. We had a good three and a half year journey and oh, wow. One of my primary goals was to make her laugh at least once a day. And so that was the goal, and I think that was mission accomplished.


Awesome. Well, I mean, what a story. I mean, gosh, we're almost out of time here. On the segment, but there's so much I want to dive into based on your story. I mean, I can't the the roller coaster like you said, having lost your father in that way and then having that with your mother. We're going to hit a break here, guys. We're going to come back. We'll get the Mr. Biz Tip of the week. We'll continue talking to Mark about his book.


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All right, welcome back to the show.


It's time for Mr. Biz Tip of the Week, and this one is about hiring. Now, everyone's been dealing with this for the last I mean, it seems like I mean, some of it was going on pre COVID, but certainly post COVID as well. Hiring, challenge, it doesn't matter the geography. It's in the United States. It's outside the United States, in all parts of the United States. It's all industries. Hiring is becoming a challenge. And one of the things that's what this week's tip is talking about.


Know when you're trying to hire the best, when you're really looking for top resources, you got to keep in mind it's not always about money. Oftentimes it's not about money. When you're hiring the best resources, those type of people need a path. So the tip is hiring the best isn't just about money. Give them a meaningful path to career success. Those types of resources have to see a fulfilling path. It's not just about the money, of course. They want to be compensated fairly, as everyone does.


But the really top notch resources, it's much more than that. And if you do get someone in the door by paying them a lot of money, but you don't give them that path, they'll be gone soon. Because if they're a really good resource, they're going to interview and they're going to find a job somewhere else. So you really have to focus on that. It's one of the things I see that oftentimes business owners miss out on by just focusing on compensation and things like that and not thinking about the intrinsic value that people want to feel from their career and the value they're bringing to the company.


So that's the tip for this week. All right, we're getting back into talking to Mark Steven Porro. You can find out more, and we'll put this in the show notes as well. you can follow him on Facebook. He's got a YouTube channel, LinkedIn and Instagram as just a I can't believe the oh, I can believe it, of course. But again, I can't imagine what was going through your and your siblings heads when, you know, the hospice situation with your father being such a short thing, and then you ended up having three and a half years with your mother, especially with those first couple of weeks, it sounds like were pretty darn harrowing. And you're almost counting down the time.


How did you guys get through those two weeks?


Well, it was more than actually two weeks. Well, she was hanging in I called it a semicomatose state she was in, but she didn't appear to be in any pain, and we got some comfort from that. We just hung out. You're with her. We wanted to make sure that she knew that her kids were there with her and everything was going to be fine. If she chose to leave, that was okay. And at one point, she seemed to stop breathing, and I actually said to her, mom, it's okay if you want to go. We're going to be fine.


And it wasn't her time after the pumpkin pie, so this was probably several weeks later now. Okay. My sister was alone with her, and we were always curious about who she was staring with up in the same corner of the room. And so my sister said, who are you? Somebody talking to you? And my mother was like she nodded, yeah. And she said, well, was it God? And my mother, she just kind of froze. And then she said, My little sister, did he talk to you?


And my mother, again nodded, yes. Well, what did he say? And she said, Be patient. So whether it was God or maybe my dad, at that point, it was 14 years earlier he passed, so maybe he wasn't ready to see her again. So hey, take your time, Jen. Don't worry about it.


I'll be here.


Yeah. So it was funny because she was kind of a grumpy. As we get older, our social filters kind of change, so she became kind of a grumpy woman. I called her like she was the Archie Bunker of the family, and so I didn't really want to be around her. Normally, I would be there a few times a year I'd fly in, but there was several months where I wasn't there. So when she woke up, she was very good at guilt tripping.


And she hit me with, well, I haven't seen you in a long while and I'm like, out of all this off your deathbed, now you got to hit me with the guilt trip. So I apologize. And that might have been a little more of a catalyst for me to kind of take.


Well, and I know we're going to get into the next segment talking about some of the things that you're going to help us with as far as being prepared for that and helping with that. But what led to so this whole experience, what led to writing the book?


Mark well, while I was doing since I am kind of a wrote, I wrote a lot of things in Hollywood and stuff and I always like to memorialize family events. So I've been doing that kind of my whole life, whether it's a poem or I created these memory books for all members of the family when they hit a monumental birthday, 30, 40, 50, and then for my nieces and nephews when they got married, since I didn't have enough memories of them at the time. So I had other people contribute memories.


And I took my dad to Italy in 1995, to the little village where his father came from. And I shot a documentary of that because it was just the two of us and it was a lot of family history uncovered and I wanted everybody else to discover what we discovered. So while I was there with my mom, I took notes, I took videos, I took a lot of photographs because we had what's great about 24/7 care, though it's very stressful emotionally and physically and mentally, but there's moments that are just priceless. And so I wanted to record all these things because nobody else was there for those things. They may have caught a few here and there, but I caught all of them.


And so I wanted to document that for the family, so I kept notes. And then during our journey, there were some friends dealing with the same situation and they heard that I was back taking care of my mom and so they asked me for advice and I shared some of my, I guess, tips and tricks and they seemed to get some benefit from it. So I said, I think we have something here because I'm not the only one dealing with this. I mean, I knew that at the time, but I was one of, let's say, the rare sons that take this over because still most of the caregiving for our parents falls on the daughter or the daughter. So it's a little unusual for a son to take over. But the decision for me was easy working out the logistics because I had a business in Los Angeles and I was an actor, but the actor, I was kind of aging out of that. So that was slowing know, I said, this is what I'm doing, so I'm going to make everything else work. So you set that goal and everything else seemed to fall in place. It was great. And I had the full support of my five siblings.


My mom and I had a very unique relationship. I was the third son and the fifth out of the six kids. And I grew up as a curious kid. So with both of my parents, I got them to open up about things that never opened up because they were from that generation that didn't talk about feelings and emotions and stuff like that. And I got them to open up and it was great. So it was very easy for me to take this on and it was very easy for my mother to trust me, because you're dealing with seeing your 89 year old mother naked for the first time and dealing with what age has done to her body.


But you had a job to do. And we learned a lot of these tips from hospice, and then we incorporated those. But you have to get over that emotional thing. You're still the son and she's still your mother, but you are the caregiver. So you need to get over those emotional things and get on with the work. And so that was a little bit of a challenge at first, but then you jump in and then you see that she's responding well to it and she's doing well.


So you know you were doing the right thing and you're on the right track.


Yeah, well, I can't even imagine shifting being in that caregiver mode and almost like the full circle of life type of thing. But we're going to hit a break here, guys. We're going to come back. Mark's going to give us some tips on preparing to be a good caregiver and then being a good caregiver.


Attention Mr. Biz Nation, we have an exclusive offer just for you. Get lifetime access to scarcity, countdown timers, and logic links for only $69. Yes, you heard it right? Only $69. These tools will add urgency to your email campaigns and website pages, helping you increase conversions, sales, and capture more leads. Don't miss this incredible opportunity. Visit now and take your business to New Heights.


Check out all three of Mr. Business best-selling books at Now, once again, here's Mr. Biz.


All right, welcome back to the show again. We're talking this week with Mark steven Poirot. Can find out more at his website, Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram. We'll put that all in the show notes as well, but I wanted to make sure I mentioned that. And of course, pick up a copy of his book, A Cup of Tea on the Commode. So, Mark, I kind of alluded to a little bit before, but that whole circle of life, I can imagine as you're transitioning into that, it's almost like as a new parent with a newborn, right?


You're taking care of that newborn and you're seeing your newborn naked, and then you fast forward, whatever, 60 years later, and maybe you're taking care of a parent, and it's almost like the roles have completely reversed in that situation. And I know, especially in the situation from your story, you didn't necessarily have a chance to prepare on being a good caregiver. But now that you've been through it, what are some things that we should all be thinking about as being prospective caregivers in the future?


Yeah. Well, in my situation, I was a carefree bachelor, never married, no children. So my first child was an 89 year old grumpy, guilt tripping woman, but funny. So the things that I learned, they say the carefree bachelor may have commitment issues, and so I have to cop to that, perhaps. So unconditional love and stuff, not having a child is a huge deal because no matter what you're going through and how difficult it may be and all that stuff, this person's life is in your hands.


So you got to deal with it, with grace, certainly empathy, because they are a person who still needs love, certainly needs food and security and safety and all that business, but it's not only your mother, it is a person whose life is in your hands. So you have to understand that they're going to be a little slower if they suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's. My mother had a bit of both. You got to deal with it with patients.


She didn't remember my name at one point early on, actually, she remembered her other five children, but she didn't remember my name. So I had to put a visual aid on her ceiling because when she was laying in bed, when I would greet her in the morning, if she didn't realize who I was, she would look up and see my name printed on the ceiling. So she would go, oh, hi, Mark. And so it actually worked quite well.


And I didn't take too much offense because I came up with a scientific theory, because I was the one wiping her butt the whole time. So we did everything. There were no lines that I did not cross as a caregiver. Being the son, I said, I'm the caregiver, so I've got to do it all. So I wiped her butt several times a day, and yet I'm the only one who she forgot. So I have a scientific theory that wiping butt does cause amnesia, and they can investigate that in the book to see if I'm right.


But empathy is a big deal, so you have to put yourself in their shoes and be patient. There's stress involved, so there are times where you are going to get angry, but you shouldn't be getting angry at them. You could be angry at the situation. And you also need to maybe explain that to them, because let's say my mother never swore and I occasionally would come up with a few choice words, and I knew that would upset her, and so I would apologize and say, listen, I'm sorry. This parenting thing is tough.


And she would respond, yes, I know, but I never swore. And this was a mother of six, so it was like guilt trip noted. So the unconditional love was a big deal, but humor played a huge role. I mean, it helped me quite a bit. She made me laugh very often, and my goal was to make her laugh at least once a day. And I think maybe she made me laugh even more than that because we had a lot of fun. I mean, it's the time where when a new parent gets peed on by their child, it's cute, it's adorable.


Not when it's your 90 year old mother, but she was okay with it, so I had to be okay with it. She would just say, it's natural, and I'd go, okay, as I'm cleaning myself off. Humor, patience, empathy, I would say is the most important thing, I think, in anything that we do, no matter who you're taking care of, or you see someone on the street, try to understand what they're going through before you judge them, but especially when you're doing the caregiving.


And also the major thing I would say is the pros say you got to take breaks because it's a very stressful job. There is, I think, quite a high percentage of caregivers that die before their patients. Really scary because the stress really gets to you. And I had some medical issues during our journey, and I was a good healthy. I ate well, didn't drink too much. Red wine is another thing I would recommend humor, red wine, empathy, but I didn't smoke or anything, and I exercise regularly, but I had to go through some emergency surgeries because of, I guess, a stress related issue.


So take the breaks and look for the joy. I try to do that. I've had quite an adventurous life, and I always go forward and say, I'm going to make this the most fun that could possibly be. I'm going to find the joy in it no matter what I'm doing. And that's paid off really well, and it certainly helped me through this journey. When you look for the joy, it's contagious. And so quite often, I would see my mother smile at whatever I was doing.


And it's a great feeling to know that you're doing not only a good thing, but the right thing, and you're honoring it's. Another way to honor our mother and father. It was good, and some people say, you were a hero for doing this. And I said, I don't think so. I think this is the way I was brought up. And again, it's the right thing to do. And for me, actually, it was kind of selfish because I got to spend all that extra time with her and learn things about her and her family and it was great. So it was important for me to document that stuff in the book and it's a lot of fun in the book as well. But there's some tips people may get. I don't call it a how to book, I call it a what I did book. And if you get something out of it, great, but either way, you're going to be entertained.


Yeah. And I think it's probably key in that situation. It sounds like a lot of what you're describing is when you're in a stressful situation or especially something like this, when you get up and you're thinking, I have to fill in the blank, oh, my gosh, I got to take care of my mom today. You change that to I get to. I mean, obviously you had a successful career, a successful life, to it enabled you to take time off from that financially, et cetera, to be able to take care of your mom, whereas your other siblings didn't have that opportunity.


And like you said, it obviously was very fulfilling for you, even though very challenging.


Yeah, it was great. I was with both of my parents when they took their last breath. I had a different sister with me with each, but it really helped in saying goodbye because there was nothing left unsaid. And she she went out the way I think it would be the envy of most people. She died in her bed, very little pain, surrounded by her loved ones. And my father, the same way he died in his bed, in his home, with his kids by his side.


It makes it easier, I guess, but at one point, my mother said, Why are you doing this? And I said, Because it's an honor for a son to take care of his mother. And she was shocked by that. And this is a woman who grew up in the Catholic Church and stuff, and so I was very surprised and so I had to convince her why. And I eventually got to a point where she smiled and again, puckered up for a kiss.


Well, Mark, congrats to you for that. It sounds like not only with the trip you made with your father in his waning years, but also with this. What you gave to your mom was amazing. I would obviously and wholeheartedly consider you a hero for the sacrifice you made and the things that you were able to do and spend that time with your mom and make her last few years obviously very happy and making her laugh and things like that.


Again, Mark Steven Porro. Find out more at Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram Mark, thanks so much for coming on the show. We really appreciate it.


Absolutely. It was a pleasure and certainly a joy to share a bit of my mom with the world.


Appreciate it. Appreciate it, guys. Thanks for watching. Thanks for listening. Have a great rest of your week and don't forget, as always, cash flow is king.


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