Laughter program leaves residents in stitches and high spirits

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Cranbrook Care resident Judith dancing with Laughter Care performer, Monty. [Source: supplied]

They say laughter is the best medicine and the team at Cranbrook Care has taken that advice on board with the rollout of the Laughter Care program.

About 10-15% of older people experience depression, a reality that sometimes becomes more real when living in aged care facility.

But five Cranbrook Care locations around the country have taken this statistic in their stride and helped organise the Laughter Care program for their residents who are involved in weekly visits from professionally trained performers who engage with them using stories, music, props and improvisation to bring a smile to their face.

Performers encourage residents to reminisce wearing costumes designed to connect with familiar eras such as the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and residents have been loving the engagement with some even dancing, laughing out loud, clapping, singing and tapping their toes from the moment they arrive.

One participating resident who lost her husband several days before a recent Laughter Care visit, enjoyed the program.

Research has proven the many physiological and psychological benefits of laughter on health and well-being, including reducing stress, anxiety and pain, as well as having a positive impact on the cardiovascular, immune and respiratory systems. 

“We’re constantly reviewing our lifestyle offering to identify opportunities to enhance the emotional, social, and physical well-being of our residents, and with research underlining the many benefits of humour and meaningful connection for the elderly, we decided this would be a fantastic opportunity for both our residents and staff,” said Cranbrook Care Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Lee Carissa.

The Laughter Care program is delivered in conjunction with The Humour Foundation, best known for its Clown Doctors program which improves the hospital experience for children and their families.

Findings from The Humour Foundation’s SMILE Study, measuring the impact of laughter and joy on residents living with dementia, showed a decrease in agitation levels to the same extent as antipsychotic drugs but without side effects.

“The Laughter Care program can help decrease resident depression and behavioural disturbances while increasing positive behaviour, boosting staff morale and uplifting the atmosphere of aged care facilities,” said Karey Payne, National Programs Manager of The Humour Foundation.

Cranbrook Care chose to introduce laughter therapy to help improve the quality of life for residents who may be struggling with physical and/or mental health deterioration. Some of these residents may be isolated from family and friends, suffered the recent passing of a spouse, or have conditions that may make it difficult to communicate or be understood.

Ms Carissa said Crankbrook Care has already received positive feedback from residents and staff who have said it’s an “absolute joy” to watch Laughter Care performers interact with residents.

“We’ve been delighted to see this new program in action and to watch the experts quickly ascertain just how to engage with each resident and draw the most out of them through genuine one-on-one connections,” she said.

“Our staff are already employing some of the tactics they’ve observed these specifically trained performers use to develop fun and practical humour therapy tactics that break down barriers and elicit physical and verbal reactions, especially from some of our less outgoing residents.”

Would you like to see something like this rolled out at your facility? Let us know in the comments below!

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