When it comes to dementia, a big belly laugh may be the best medicine. New research indicates that laughter may be just as effective as antipsychotic medications for reducing anxiety in elderly people with dementia.
Dementia is a disease that has no cure and few effective treatments. But, as reported by Yahoo.com, an Australian research report, aptly named the SMILE study, set out to discover whether humor could improve the lives of people living with dementia.
Over the course of three years, humor therapists helped 400 dementia-stricken people giggle more often, producing an impressive result: a 20% reduction in anxiety – the same result as antipsychotic medications, according to lead researcher, Lee-Fay Low.
Since agitation and anxiety are often the root causes of outbursts and wandering in people with dementia, being able to reduce these feelings would have a positive impact on their lives as well as the lives of their caregivers.
Making the case for humor therapy
True to its reputation as "the best medicine," laughter and humor therapy actually fall into the category of complementary and alternative medicine.
In an article published in the BMC Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the use of humor therapy for dementia patients is debated.
According to the authors, the always a complex issue of humor, is made even more thorny by cognitive impairment, the hallmark symptom of dementia.
As the disease progresses, dementia can cause a person to be less capable of understanding complex jokes and may cause them to become defensive if they perceive that someone is laughing at their expense.
But, if presented gradually, humor can produce positive feelings in a person with dementia, leading to the benefits of increased immune functioning and greater pain tolerance.