Monday, May 30, 2016
Clowns in Dementia, Alzheimer’s Care (Research, Video 4:59)
For years, I never thought anyone couldn’t love a clown. I finally met such a person in my neighborhood. She has coulrophobia, an irrational fear of clowns. Doctors and scientists say that the fear comes from not knowing the identity of the person behind the excessive makeup. The clown’s makeup and ability to break social behavior norms create a state of panic causing the observer to have difficulty in breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and feelings of fear. My friend has explained her fear to me, and it is very real. She refuses to go to McDonald’s restaurant for that reason. I mention this to emphasize that successful engagement between patients and clowns does not apply to everyone.
However, for many long-term care residents with dementia, elder clowning brings numerous rewards. This research on elder clowns focused on residents with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease in nursing homes. A pair of elder clowns visited all residents twice weekly for 12 weeks. They used improvisation, humor, empathy, and expressive modalities such as songs, musical instruments, and dance to individualize resident engagement. After measuring outcomes, researchers determined that elder clowning reduced moderate to severe behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) of nursing home residents primarily with Alzheimer's. Elder clowning is a promising intervention that may improve Alzheimer's care for nursing home residents.
This video highlights the dynamic elder clown program of the Humour Foundation. Elder clowns are highly skilled professional performers trained by the Humour Foundation to work in aged care and dementia facilities. Using the healing power of humour, elder clowns aim to improve quality of life by working in partnership with facility staff and residents:
Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.