Laughter Is Effective Medicine for Elderly Dementia Patients
With no side effects and no steep costs, it turns out laughter really may be the best medicine for elderly dementia patients. A new study, led by humor therapist Jean-Paul Bell and aptly named SMILE, found that laughter decreased agitation among the elderly with dementia while increasing contentment and boosting mood.
Laughter may be good medicine for elderly dementia patients — and best of all, it doesn’t have side effects.
Australian humor therapist Jean-Paul Bell was originally a clown doctor working with sick children, but now he makes the elderly laugh through a program called Play-Up.
Bell was also the key humor therapist in a Sydney-based study into the impact of humor therapy on mood, agitation, behavioral disturbances and social engagement in dementia patients, a study that showed those who took part seemed happier.
“The whole idea behind the Play-Up program and what we’re doing at the Arts Health Institute is encouraging them to play more because we believe that they’ve got potential to keep playing right until you take your last breath,” Bell said.
He set up the Arts Health Institute to train aged-care staff in fostering playful relationships with their patients, particularly those with dementia.
The study, called the SMILE study, took place over three years, involving 36 nursing homes and 400 residents.
Dressed in a bright blue jacket with brass buttons and shoulder tabs, Bell uses a combination of games, jokes and songs — accompanying himself on a ukulele — to get the elderly to laugh.