Comedy Is Good Medicine For Alzheimer’s Patients

Exposing individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease to humor therapy appears as effective as psychiatric drugs in reducing the agitation that often plagues those struggling with dementia.

Researchers found that nursing home residents who actively participated in a weekly two-hour clowning session involving music, mime and humorous props showed a significant reduction in both physically and verbally aggressive behavior. 

“The number of U.S. adults aged 65 years and older is projected to nearly double over the next two decades,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, the national trade organization.  “As a result, the incidence of cognitive issues especially Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is also expected to rise as will the need for costly long term care.”

Scientists found that laughter resulted in a 20-percent plunge in overall agitation.  The benefit lasted for at least 14 weeks beyond the conclusion of the clowning program.  They noted an added bonus, the fact that change was achieved without running any of the risk of serious side effects, including falling and premature death, that have been previously associated with prescription antipsychotic drugs. 

The study authors noted that between 70 percent and 80 percent of dementia patients experience some form of agitation and distress, which can include bouts of wandering, screaming and repetitive behaviors. 

The scientists utilized the services of an elder clown who was trained to engage in humor-based therapy in a medical setting.  Sessions were conducted weekly and involved humorous improvisation skills, similar to those used by clown doctors who perform for sick children. 

While agitation remained lower 26 weeks following therapy launch, the boost in both happiness and positive behaviors seen during the program faded once the program ended. 

Jesse Slome, a national long-term care insurance expert advises adults in their mid-50s to learn more about long-term care planning and get long-term care insurance costs from a designated expert via the Association’s Consumer Information Center at  He explains that the best ages to look into this protection is prior to age 65 when health issues including early diagnosis of cognitive issues can make it harder or more costly to medically qualify for coverage.

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