January 10, 2020
Looking after a person you love with dementia is certainly not something to laugh about. Nonetheless, research is increasingly pointing towards the benefits of humor, and dementia caregivers who find ways to add it into everyday life could be tapping into an incredibly effective technique.
For instance, an Australian study just recently announced that humor therapy can aid in eliminating agitation in those diagnosed with dementia as successfully as antipsychotic medications, without the negative effects. Shared laughter connects us, and helps those with cognitive difficulties to feel accepted, safe, and at ease. According to Lori La Bey, founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks, “When anyone is sick or having a hard time, they still like to laugh. I spend a lot of time teaching people that feelings don’t go away, and it’s okay to get back to that zone.”
Laughter also produces endorphins, which reduce stress hormones, and can also improve blood pressure and minimize pain for aging parents – all of which make it well worth adding to your dementia care regimen, whether by signing up for a laughter yoga class with your loved one (which includes clapping, singing, silly poses, and of course, laughter) or simply implementing ideas such as these in your own home:
- Add some lightheartedness and silliness randomly to each day. Sing goofy songs, dance around your home, tell simple jokes, and develop an environment of joy for the senior.
- Realize that what is effective today might not work tomorrow – or even an hour or so from now. Gauge your loved one’s reactions, and in case anything tends to increase agitation, shelve the idea and attempt again in the future.
- Remove quarreling and correcting from conversations with the senior. A simple “yes” and redirection to a different topic or activity goes a long way in preempting negativity.
- Emphasize to yourself that it is completely appropriate to be joyful. Laughter and dementia don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Let Continuum, providers of senior in-home care, including respite care in St. Louis and the nearby areas, help brighten life for an older adult with dementia! Each one of our specialized dementia caregivers is professionally trained and experienced in numerous creative, effective care techniques. Seniors achieve the added benefit of improved socialization, as well as a necessary relief from care responsibilities for family members, making a partnership with a Continuum caregiver a win-win!