dementia care tool

Try This Surprisingly Effective Dementia Care Tool: Laughter!

We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine, and nothing feels better than enjoying a good laugh with friends. For people who have loved ones with dementia, however, the often challenging nature of the disease can seem like anything but a laughing matter. Still, humor is an essential part of dealing with stressful situations, and new research shows that laughter can be an effective dementia care tool.

Comedy is an emerging form of therapy, joining the likes of music, dance and pet therapies, and has become a powerful way to improve mood and boost socialization while decreasing agitation, depression, and anxiety. According to one Australian study, laughing can be as effective as taking medication to manage dementia agitation. The study focused on the work of professional comedy therapists working in nursing homes. The therapists, known as Elder Clowns, performed weekly humor sessions with seniors in both one-on-one and group sessions, using improv comedy methods to lift the mood of the patients and increase interaction. The study found that humor therapy was able to reduce agitation in dementia patients by 20 percent, which is comparable to the use of anti-psychotic drugs.

Additionally, laughing with others establishes trust and has been shown to create safe social environments for people with cognitive impairment. While many feel that Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t laughing matters, experts emphasize that humor is still very important. “When anyone is sick or having a hard time, they still like to laugh,” says Lori La Bey, founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks. “I spend a lot of time teaching people that feelings don’t go away and it’s okay to get back to that zone.”

Bringing Laughter Home

Using laughter as a dementia care tool in your own home is simple and can benefit both the person with dementia and his or her caregiver. The following tips from Senior HomeCare of Tucson, a provider of Alzheimer’s care in Oro Valley and the surrounding areas can help families infuse dementia care with love and laughter:

  • Be genuine. In other words, don’t try to force humor. Find genuine moments in your day where you can reminisce about humorous past memories or watch a funny movie. Try to find the humor in daily life as well, whether it’s the way your hair looks in the morning or the fact that you burnt the toast at breakfast.
  • Get silly. Daily life as a caregiver can be so serious that we often forget that it’s okay to be silly. Sing a silly song or do a goofy dance. Find what makes your loved ones laugh and just have fun.
  • Yes, and. This is the main tenant of improv comedy and it can help you in your relationships as well. If a loved one recalls a funny story that isn’t how you remember it, don’t say no. Don’t argue or try to take things in a different direction. Just say yes, and see where things lead.
  • Let yourself laugh. Dementia is a serious condition, and there will inevitably be days when it’s hard to find any humor at all. But remember, it is okay to laugh. Laughter helps us get through the most trying times in our lives, so give yourself permission to have fun when you can.

At Senior HomeCare of Tucson, we know how challenging caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be. Our compassionate memory care in Oro Valley and nearby areas offers family caregivers the respite they need to rest and recharge, while providing the professional care, stability, and routine that seniors with dementia require. Contact our senior care team today at 520-355-4787 to learn more dementia care tools or to schedule a free in-home assessment to find out more about our services.

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