'Humor therapy' may reduce agitation levels for residents

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'Humor therapy' may reduce  agitation levels for residents
'Humor therapy' may reduce agitation levels for residents
An intervention termed “humor therapy” was as effective as antipsychotic medications in reducing agitation in dementia patients, a recent Australian study found.

The study, referred to as the SMILE study, was the first to study humor's impact on mood, agitation, behavioral disturbances and social engagement in dementia patients.

“Agitated behaviors include physical and verbal aggression, wandering, screaming and repetitive behaviors and questions. This is challenging for staff and often indicates unmet needs and distress in the residents of aged care facilities,” said lead researcher, Lee Fay-Low, Ph.D., in a statement.

In the 12-week study — which took place in 36 Australian residential care facilities — “humor practitioners,” or therapists with comedy and improvisation training, paired up with facility staff members to develop playful interactions with facility residents. Staff members were nicknamed “Laughter Bosses.” The teams focused primarily on dementia residents.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of New South Wales, resulted in a 20% reduction in nursing home dementia residents' agitated behaviors during the 12-week period. Investigators found that agitation decreased not only during the 12-week humor therapy program but remained lower through the 26-week follow up. They noted that happiness and positivity behaviors rose but dropped sharply when the program ended.