The Role of Joy and Laughter in Dementia Care

Two older women who are benefiting from laughter in dementia care.

Incorporating laughter in dementia care can be a stress reducer for you and a loved one.

Providing care for someone you love with dementia is definitely nothing to laugh about. However, research is increasingly pointing towards the benefits of laughter in dementia care, and adding humor may be just what the doctor ordered to boost well-being for a loved one.

For instance, an Australian study recently revealed that humor therapy is as effective in decreasing agitation in individuals with dementia as antipsychotic medications, without any negative side effects. Shared laughter connects us, and helps those with cognitive difficulties to feel understood, secure, and at ease. Lori La Bey, founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks, remarks, “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.”

How Else Can Laughter Help Someone With Dementia?

Laughter releases endorphins, which reduce stress hormones, and may also improve blood pressure levels and minimize pain – all of which make it well worth adding to a dementia care routine. This can be accomplished by signing up for a laughter yoga class along with your family member (which involves clapping, singing, silly poses, and of course, laughter) or implementing ideas like these in your own home:

  • Remind yourself that it is perfectly appropriate to be joyful. Laughter and dementia do not need to be mutually exclusive.
  • Include lightheartedness and silliness randomly throughout each day. Sing silly songs, dance around the home, tell simple jokes, and create an atmosphere of happiness for the individual.
  • Understand that what works today may not work tomorrow – or perhaps even an hour from now. Gauge your loved one’s reactions, and if anything appears to create anxiety, shelve the idea and try again later.
  • Refrain from arguing with and correcting the individual. A straightforward “yes” and redirection to a different topic or activity goes a long way towards preempting negativity.

The team at Harmony Home Health & Hospice is here to help. We offer a wide range of home health and therapy services that can help a loved one with dementia maintain independence and dignity.

Contact us at 1-877-I-NEED-CARE to request a free in-home consultation to learn more about our home health care services in Salt Lake City and Orem, Utah and in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and to ask about additional resources to help you provide the most effective care for someone you love. For a full list of the communities we serve in Utah and New Mexico, please visit our Service Area page.