Comedian Karen Kilgariff likens having a parent with Alzheimer’s disease to living inside a horror movie that’s playing out in real-time. “It’s as horrifying and awful as it is tedious and mundane. It’d be like if you lived in the movie Jaws. You’re happily swimming in the ocean and then everyone starts screaming, ‘Shark!’. You start to panic, but then someone else yells that the shark is 20 miles away, so you calm down a little. But then a third person gets on the bullhorn and says you’re not allowed to get out of the water ever again. So you start panicking and flailing and fighting and yelling for help. You scream about how unfair it is, you have to be out in the ocean with this killer shark alone when all those other people get to be on the beach. You scream until your voice is hoarse. No one responds. You finally start to accept that it’s your fate. But then you start thinking everything that touches you is the shark. You can’t calm down because you can’t stop reacting to things that aren’t there. You grab wildly at anything that looks like a weapon, but every time, it turns out to be seaweed. Boats go by filled with happy families enjoying the sun. You hate them all so much it makes you feel sick. Then you get really tired and you cry so hard you think your head will burst. And then finally, you gather all your strength and turn to look at the shark. Now it’s 19.8 miles away. It’s the slowest shark in history, but you know it’s coming right for you. And after five years in the water, you start rooting for the shark.”
All this to say, memory loss is super depressing. Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. Nearly 50 million people have Alzheimer’s or related dementia and there is currently no cure. The most prevalent form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which impacts 5.4 million Americans and an estimated 15 million family caregivers. There’s nothing funny about the confusion, frustration, and depression it can cause.
Comedian Dani Klein Modisett knows first-hand that laughter is the best medicine. After her own mother became depressed and withdrawn due to Alzheimer’s, Modisett hired a comedian to work with her mom regularly, and the impact on her quality of life was undeniable. This led Modisett to found Laughter On Call. Now she and her team of professionally trained comedians are bringing this experience to others across the country.
How it works
Laughter On Call offers personalized One-On-One Comedy Care, Laughter Workshops for leadership, staff, and families, Interactive Storytelling Shows, and Live Comedy Shows, each customized to meet your specific need.
One-on-one comedy care
You give them the patient details on their Friend and Family Feedback Form intake form, and they assign a comedy companion to engage with your loved one, sharing time, attention, and laughter, for as many hours a week as desired. This is also available for small groups within a senior community.
Laughter workshops for leadership, staff, and families
Suffering from caregiver burnout? Laughter On Call provides training and workshops for families, as well as healthcare center and senior community leadership and staff.
Interactive storytelling shows
A comedian comes to a senior community and takes suggestions from the “audience” to create an entertaining story.
Live comedy shows
They’ll also just come to perform comedy or, wherever, from your home to a conference.
Why it works
It’s just what the Doctor ordered
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has many stress-relieving benefits, and can even improve your immune system. Medical News Today touts, “laughter releases ‘feel-good hormones’ to promote social bonding” and encourage communal activities.
Laughter may prevent alzheimer’s
According to Alzheimers.net, “Playing, laughing, and being active while accepting new challenges is a great way to keep the brain engaged and grow new brain cells, to prevent Alzheimer’s.” On the other hand, changes in humor may be an early sign of dementia.
Impact of comedy care for seniors with dementia
Also according to Alzheimers.net, the confusion, depression, and frustration that a patient might feel can lead to negative emotions and anxiety, which may turn into behavioral problems and even aggression. Laughter can help alleviate some of these symptoms by redirecting negative emotions, reducing stress, and improving social interaction, thereby improving the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s. New research out of Australia indicates that humor therapy may reduce anxiety and agitation in elderly people with dementia just as well as antipsychotic medications.
Laughter can help caregivers cope
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80% of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are receiving care in their homes. Caregivers sacrifice time with family and friends, they can miss out on paid work, and don’t have time for themselves. Many take care of friends and family members out of the goodness of their heart, they don’t even get paid. Caregivers need stress-relief, too. And according to Alzheimers.net.
comedy can promote mental health, strengthen family relationships, allow them to enjoy the moment, and more.
The healing power of humor
“When rational thought, memory, and language are gone, the only thing we have is the present moment. And the greatest gift you can give anyone in this state is to do your best to fill the moment with laughter.” – Laughter On Call founder Dani Klein Modisett