Comedians Are Getting Hired By The Hour To Help Dementia Patients Laugh Again

image1 e1566954845389Credit: Laughter on Call

By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

It is always wonderful to just share a good laugh. But humor also solves a lot of health problems and might help to bring that spring back in your steps and smoothen the stress lines on your forehead. Dani Klein Modisett was upset as her mother withdrew into a shell after she moved her to a care center for Alzheimer’s patients near her home in Los Angeles.

Muriel Klein, Dani’s mother, had once been the life and soul of any party back in Manhattan. But a year into her stay at the care center, she was morose and silent most of the time. She no longer showed interest in talking or even having her food.  All she ever did was bow down her head and sleep a lot. Dani felt guilty but was clueless about the reason. She blamed herself for taking her mother away from Manhattan.

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A worried Modisett, a former standup comedian, and author confided in her dentist on the troubling development. She casually mentioned that she wished to hire a standup comedian to cheer her mom up.

“Why don’t you?” was her dentist’s incisive reply. Modisett immediately made arrangements for a stand-up comedian to call on her mother 8 hours every week.

On his first visit the comedian told Muriel that even he had his off day and wished that people would not get in his hair. That, and his use of an expletive familiar to Muriel, instantly got through to her. There was an immediate change in her from day one. She was back to her cheerful Manhattan days.

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Muriel again began to engage in small talk and her appetite increased, says Modisett, who had taught stand-up comedy at the University of California at Los Angeles for a decade.

Modisett realized that comedy could benefit other senior citizens with loss of memory. One-liners and slapstick could work for them too and in early 2017 she launched Laughter on Call. This organization sends comedians to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and also holds comedy shows and laughter workshops at care centers. 

Modisett says the hourly charges are usually between $25 and $50 and are decided between the comedians, the families, and the care facilities. The organization’s comedians work generally in California though she gets inquiries from across the country.

It is a win-win situation as the comedians get a steady source of work and the families of the senior citizens are more than happy to see the smile back on the faces of their loved ones. It also benefits the comedians as they feel that they are more patient and have developed empathy since they joined Laughter on Call.

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Comedian Michael Piper-Younie visits Modisett’s mother every other week. She has become more responsive and there’s always a smile on her face when she meets Michael. Health care workers have said that they have noticed the palpable change in the residents. Modisett feels that through humor we can reach inside the person and draw them out. Comedians have that courage and charisma to cheer up someone secluded, distracted, and lonely.

She remembered a particular show for dementia patients when a group of her comedians presented a “Titanic Remembrance Day”. When they got to singing “Amazing Grace”, Modisett recalled that all the residents were smiling and laughing and she knew that she was seeing something exceptional.

It has been scientifically proven that laughter can improve health and people with a better sense of humor have healthier lives. Laughter should be as much a part of your healthy diet as your carrots and broccoli. The greatest therapy is that humor and laughter help people to bond which has obvious benefits for mental health too.

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