When all else is lost, laughter remains. According to the 2016 study “Altered Sense of Humor in Dementia” by Clark et al., it’s highly likely that people with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease still have a sense of humor. A 2019 study in professional journal Current Psychology noted that even when elderly people’s mental faculties decline, their sense of humor remains a strong part of their character.
CEO of Laughter On Call and comedian Dani Klein Modisett observed this phenomenon with her own mother, which she wrote about for the American Society on Aging. After moving her mother from her New York City apartment to a memory care community in the Los Angeles area, Modisett watched her mother fall into depression and social withdrawal.
Distraught seeing her mother in such a state, a light bulb went on in Modisett’s head: Hire a comedian to provide her mother with some humor. She brought in someone who spoke to her mother with an accent much like the one from her home in New York. When the comedian said, “You don’t want to talk to me, you’re probably thinking, ‘Who is this schmuck just talking to me?’” Modisett’s mother burst out laughing.
When Modisett witnessed the exchange, she decided to hire the comedian for eight hours a week to entertain her mother. This resulted in a 180-degree shift in personality; her mother was now happy, engaging with others socially, and her appetite increased.
The results were undeniable here: Sharing a joke and laughter with someone else caused Modisett’s mother to feel connected to other people again. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can help reduce stress and anxiety, connect with other people and increase personal satisfaction, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, and even improve the immune system. High levels of stress are known to increase the rate of brain degeneration, such as that in Alzheimer’s and dementia.
While a good laugh won’t reverse dementia or Alzheimer’s effects, it can certainly help improve the lives of those living with degenerative brain diseases. Hiring a comedian for a night of entertainment would brighten up the lives of those in a memory care community. At EngAGE EnCOURAGE™, our monthly activities promote conversation about topics that evoke memories and humor, helping adults with dementia feel valued, loved, and connected.
Incorporating humor into your work as a care partner can help the lives of those in memory care because nothing makes us feel as connected as a shared joke and a shared laugh.
EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ provides a quality curriculum for resident or member programming at assisted living communities, adult day clubs, and memory care providers. Reach us via email or toll-free by phone at 602-418-5196.