Sherri Friend, CEO Oakwood Creative Care™ in Mesa, Arizona, has long recognized the importance of creating opportunities for participants in their program to learn, laugh and create. Science has caught up to her theories, and there is more and more data supporting the importance of laughter — how it affects not just our moods but also our brains; Sherri and her staff make time every day for laughter.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

The emerging field of “positive psychology” is focused on the character strengths and behaviors that allow individuals to build a life of meaning and purpose—to move beyond surviving to flourishing. One of the ways to do this, particularly with people who have cognitive impairment, is with laughter. According to an article on the Blue Zones website, laughter has the power to help people physically, socially, and cognitively.

In fact, a major study out of Australia showed that “humor therapy is as effective as widely used antipsychotic drugs in managing agitation in patients with dementia—and avoids serious drug side effects,” according to this article on the Science Daily site. It explains, “The SMILE study found a 20 percent reduction in agitation using humor therapy, an improvement comparable to the common use of anti-psychotic drugs.”

Caregivers often take what people living with dementia say very seriously. But this article on the Next Avenue site reveals that it’s all right to joke and be silly. If a person asks the same question repeatedly, maybe a humorous response will work just as well or better than giving a rote reply every time. It refers to a Journal of Holistic Nursing Study that shows humor creates “a coping mechanism that establishes trust, even as memory and logic fade,” the authors noted.

Laughter has positive biological effects, including the release of endorphins and improved blood pressure. This is true for anyone, but when working with people with cognitive impairment, this physical benefit combined with the emotional engagement that humor offers can make a huge difference in their quality of life.

Oakwood Creative Care™ and ALLE Learning™ partner in an innovative memory care program that blends lifelong learning programs with creative and expressive lessons to create experiences that encourage recall and curiosity. Laughter is an integral part of this creative process and helps people thrive.

EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ provides quality online classes for use in programming at assisted living communities, adult day clubs, and for memory care providers. Reach us via email or toll free by phone at (800) 990-9806.