AN aged care facility in Dalmeny is one of the first in Australia to introduce a humour therapy program that improves the quality of life for the growing number of people with dementia.
The “Play Up” program introduced at IRT at Dalmeny last Wednesday involves visits to an aged care facility by specially trained, humour therapists.
Well-known local entertainer Damon Davies is working with trained aged care staff Claudia Duck and Belinda Hicks to create long-lasting, playful relationships with residents, particularly those living with dementia. The goal is to encourage them to enjoy participating more in life.
“On the face of it, it looks like we’re having fun, but it is really quite involved,” Damon said.
Play Up has been developed using the results of the world first “SMILE Study” conducted by University of NSW’s Dementia Collaborative Research Centre.
The randomised controlled trial looked into the effects of humour therapy on 400 residents in 36 Australian aged care facilities, and showed humour therapy was as effective as widely used anti-psychotic drugs in managing agitation experienced by people living with dementia, but without the side effects.
Agitation levels decreased by an average of 20 per cent during the 12-week intervention at each facility during the study and remained lower at the 26-week follow up.
Happiness and positive behaviour levels rose while the humour therapy was in place but decreased again after it ceased.
The study also found that the more humour therapy a person had the greater social engagement and reduction in depression.
Well-known humour therapist, comedian, author, and creative director of Arts Health Institute (AHI), Jean-Paul Bell, developed the program, drawing on his years of experience in performance and mime, as well as his role as co-founder and creative director of The Humour Foundation and their Clown Doctor program.
“IRT Dalmeny Care Centre is home for our residents, hence it is essential we smile, laugh and find humour in different situations just like we do in our own homes,” IRT area manager Helen Spence said.
“Research shows that social engagement and laughing reduces anxiety and depression.
With the help of the professionals from the Arts Health Institute we are aiming to smile and laugh a little more with our residents.”
More than 280,000 Australians are currently living with dementia but it touches more than one million when impacted families and carers are taken into account.
By 2030, dementia will represent the third-largest area of hospital and residential care costs and by 2050 more than one million people will be living with some form of the disease, making it a big issue in aged care.