Tell Two Jokes and Call Me in the Morning
Laughter really may be the best medicine. Two local experts explain why. Plus, a new laser could reduce chronic pain, and a doctor has strict orders about maintaining your heart health.
(page 3 of 6)
“When you start talking about these study results, many people will walk away and won’t want to listen to you,” McGhee says. “I admit that some of the research is surprising even to me.” He predicts that the current phase of humor research—linking laughter therapy with specific illnesses—will go on for another 10 years, with study after study replicating results before the medical community in general accepts the findings.
Still, humor therapy is catching on. Visiting clowns are fairly common in hospitals, and not just for pediatric patients. Some hospitals have humor carts that deliver funny audiotapes and videotapes, cartoon books, games and other laughter-inducing materials to patients.
Bayhealth Medical Center, which operates Kent General Hospital and Milford Memorial Hospital, does not have dedicated humor carts, but the library cart always includes some comic books, says Jane Hewitt of Bayhealth’s Guest Relations Department. “Someone gave us a stack of Garfield books, and those went really fast,” says Hewitt, who also posts cartoons and funny emails on bulletin boards in the hospitals’ cafeterias so employees and visitors can get a laugh as well.
“Our philosophy is that we are taking care not just of the ailment but of the whole patient—and their families as well,” she says. “Laughter releases good endorphins and helps with the healing process.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children has the widest variety of offerings to help patients smile. The hospital has eight child-life specialists charged with addressing the psychosocial and emotional needs of patients and families. Five work full time with inpatients, and three part-timers cover the emergency room.
“We tend to incorporate humor and laughter for rapport-building,” says child-life specialist Laura Mitchell. “When the child is laughing and we are laughing, it lets the patient and the family know that we are nonthreatening. And if a patient is more relaxed, medications work better. We get to know who likes silly jokes, who enjoys sarcasm and who likes teasing.”
Inpatients also have access to A.I.’s Child Life Activity Center, a large playroom with an array of entertainment for kids of all ages. The hospital recently added a new closed-circuit television station, The Get Well Network, with online gaming, Internet access and movies on demand. Magicians, clowns, face painters, puppeteers and other entertainers will sometimes visit the hospital to give free performances.
Humorous storyteller Clem Bowen is one of the more popular performers at Lorelton Nursing Home in Wilmington, according to activities director Kathy Latham. Storytellers also are popular at Active Day of Newark, a day-care facility for older adults, many of whom have dementia. Clients there also enjoy clowns and balloon animals, says center director Michelle Hood.
“Our program manager tries to incorporate laughter into many activities. Sometimes she’ll just break out in laughter and encourage others to join in.” Hood says. “I think for all of us, the more we laugh, the happier we are.”
Happier and healthier. —Theresa Gawlas Medoff
Page 4: Laugh More–It's Easy