Laughter really is the best medicine

An Australian-first pilot program at Flinders Medical Centre is brightening up hospital stays for elderly patients - many of whom have dementia.

Thanks to the generosity of Flinders Foundation supporters, and a CommBank Staff Foundation Community Grant, The Humour Foundation’s Laughter Care performers visit the hospital’s Geriatric Evaluation and Management (GEM) ward twice a week to sing, chat, and reminisce with patients.

Southern Adelaide Local Health Network GEM Ward Acting Allied Health Service Manager, Fabiola Jabur, said reactions from patients during the interactions have been “amazing”.

“A hospital admission can really impact on a patient’s mood, particularly with elderly patients,” Fabiola said.

“When we see them talking, interacting and singing together, you can see their faces brighten up immediately.

“It has also given patients something to look forward to and they’ll often make requests for specific songs on the next visit,” Fabiola said.

Reminiscence and humour therapies have been found to improve the quality of life for older people living with dementia or experiencing social isolation, while also decreasing agitation levels and behavioural disturbances, and creating a positive atmosphere for patients and their families.

“For people with dementia, or some other cognitive impairment, they won’t necessarily remember what they did this morning, but those old memories are still there and there is an emotional attachment to them,” Fabiola said.

“Through this program, the performers take the time to reminisce with patients which can really bring back all those sentimental moments.”

Staff have also noticed Laughter Care performers encouraging connection and interaction between patients sharing a room, which has helped overcome isolation and boredom.

Run by Australian Charity, The Humour Foundation, this is the first time the Laughter Care program has operated with elderly patients inside an Australian hospital, with programs already established in residential aged care homes interstate.

Recently, Laughter Care performers ‘Barry’ and ‘Derek’ (pictured left and right) brought some cheer to patient Carla – with the trio singing a rousing rendition of Que Sera Sera together.

“Well, that was quite something wasn’t it,” Carla said after the visit.

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