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Humor as effective as medication in treating agitation in dementia
Date:9/21/2011

Humour therapy is as effective as widely used antipsychotic drugs in managing agitation in patients with dementia and avoids serious drug side effects, a new study shows.

The first major study of the impact of humour therapy on mood, agitation, behavioural disturbances and social engagement in dementia patients found both short term and persisting decrease in agitation, according to lead researcher, Dr Lee-Fay Low, a Research Fellow in the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales.

The SMILE study across 36 Australian residential aged care facilities involved the recruitment and training of a staff member to act as a "LaughterBoss" who worked with a humour practitioner with comedic and improvisation skills not unlike "Clown Doctors" used in hospitals to aid recovery and lift mood in children.

Jean-Paul Bell, the key humour therapist in the SMILE study, has set up the Arts Health Institute (AHI) to train humour practitioners and aged care staff. The AHI's core program, Play Up, provides a playful relationship with residents and staff in aged care, focusing particularly with people with dementia. The AHI is now focused on translating the knowledge of the SMILE study into residential aged care and continues to work with UNSW's Dementia Collaborative Research Centre to roll out the program nationally.

Dementia rates are expected to double to in the next 20 years in Australia to about 450,000, mainly due to an ageing population. About 6.5 per cent of people over 65 and 22 per cent of people over 85 have dementia an umbrella term used to describe up to 60 different conditions causing similar neurodegenerative changes in the brain.

Between 70 and 80 per cent of people suffering from dementia are troubled by agitation, a problem for both patients with the disease and their carers.

"Agitated behaviours include physical and verbal aggression, wandering, screaming and repetitive behaviours and que
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Contact: Dr. Lee-Fay Low
LF.Low@unsw.edu.au
61-293-852-599
University of New South Wales
Source:Eurekalert

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