OK how’s THIS for irony?
I was recently reading the details of a study on using humor instead of certain drugs and I…well…ended up doubled over in a giggling fit.
You see it never fails to tickle my funny bone when I read about the ineffectiveness of certain widely accepted drug ’em till their dizzy protocols being exposed. But when you add in the fact that this time it’s HUMOR that blew the drugs right out of the water and, well, you really can’t blame me for letting a few guffaws escape can you?
Allow me to back up a bit and explain.
Experts tell is that somewhere between 70% and 80% of people who suffer from dementia also have to endure agitation related to the disease. That agitation…which often rears its ugly head in the form of verbal and physical aggression…can be a major source of stress for both the patients and their caregivers.
And what do you suppose the typical mainstream response is to the problem? Ding…ding. Yup, you guessed it…they throw drugs at it. In this case the drugs they’re throwing are the heavy-duty anti-psychotic variety.
Now I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you that hand-in-hand with those serious drugs comes a list of super-serious side effects as long as your arm including dizziness, blurred vision, tremors, rapid heartbeat, muscle spasms, strokes, and even death to name just a few.
Thankfully, a group of researchers…apparently all with a good sense of humor and open minds…wanted to find out how humor therapy could affect the mood and behavior of dementia patients. The so-called SMILE study was launched and included dementia patients in 36 residential elder care facilities across Australia.
A staff member at each facility was recruited to be a “LaughterBoss” (and no I’m NOT making that up) who worked with a humor therapist to learn how to introduce laughter and a playful approach to relationships with seniors suffering from dementia.
And do you want to know the real kicker?
It worked equally as well as those dangerous anti-psychotics with…of course… zero side effects!
During the 12-week program researchers saw a 20% reduction in agitation using the humor therapy and patient’s agitation levels stayed lower during the 26-week follow up period as well.
So why does it work? Well we aren’t 100% positive yet, but its effectiveness is really not as much of a stretch as it might seem at first glance.
We already know that laugher can do a lot of good things for the body. A hearty chuckle helps with blood flow and oxygen exchange throughout the body. A giggling fit can naturally boost your heart function and your immune system. Plus a good belly laugh releases feel-good endorphins along with all kinds of other mood boosting and pain-killing chemicals.
So remember, as Doctor Patch Adams a leader in the medical clown movement says, “Being happy is the best cure of all diseases!”
“Humour therapy is as effective as widely used antipsychotic drugs in managing agitation in patients with dementia,” The University of New South Wales, September 21, 2011, unsw.edu.au