A study led by the University of New South Wales in Sydney has found that dementia patients benefit significantly from humour therapy. The study involved four hundred residents of 36 nursing homes and the results, say researchers, are reason to smile.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - Jean-Paul Bell enjoys making people laugh. He used to be a clown doctor working with sick children. Now, he's telling jokes to the elderly.
HUMOUR THERAPIST, JEAN-PAUL BELL SAYING
"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's humour therapy is part of a major study into how laughter can improve the lives of dementia patients.
The research was conducted over three years in nursing homes throughout Sydney. It showed that humour therapy can produce a twenty percent improvement in the demeanour of patients according to lead researcher Dr Lee-Fay Low.
DR LEE-FAY LOW, UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES, SAYING:
"Twenty percent sounds like a small effect but it's about the same amount, the same effect as you would get if you gave them and anti-psychotic medication. So medication you would use to treat schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder."
And with humour, there are no side effects, apart from smiles on the faces of staff.
THERAPIST, JOANNE RODRIGUES SAYING
"The staff were invigorated they felt that their jobs were enhanced. They were part of something that they could see the real benefits."
It's hoped the study's results will prompt more nursing homes to bring humour to their patients. Dr Low says laughter may really be the best medicine.
Ben Gruber, Reuters.