Laughter and Music Better Than Drugs for Dementia Patients

A weekly dose of songs and laughs, combined with a daily regimen
of jokes and silliness, is replacing psychotropic drugs and anti-depressants
given to dementia patients in New South Wales, Australia. It is usually a
cliché to say laughter is the best medicine. But Barry Cowling, Operations
Manager of Summit Care nursing home in Randwick, said humor therapy had reduced
aggression and depression among 18 residents in the secure dementia wing.
''We've had residents where we could reduce psychotropic drugs or have them
come off, and we could see benefits to staff with improvements in morale and
engagement,'' Cowling said. His nursing home participated in a three-year study
that found weekly visits by clowns, plus the training of staff members to
provide humor therapy, significantly reduced agitation among 180 residents in
17 nursing homes compared with a control group. The effect was similar to that
of the average dose of Risperidone, a drug used to reduce aggression and
agitation among dementia patients, the Sydney Multisite Intervention of
LaughterBosses and ElderClowns (SMILE) study found. It also avoided common side
effects like stroke. Results from the study show improvements in levels of
depression among residents correlate with the enthusiasm and dedication of
nursing home staff trained in humor therapy. Even before the formal results of
the study were known, the changes were so obvious that Cowling decided to make
laughter therapy permanent.

Source/more: Sidney Morning Herald

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