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    Laughter the best medicine in new project for people living with dementia

    A team of academics at Middlesex University has created an unlikely new tool for helping people living with dementia – a comedy DVD starring the service users themselves.

    A team of academics at Middlesex has created an unlikely new tool for helping people living with dementia – a comedy DVD starring the service users themselves.

    The project, which saw users of the Grange care home in Haringey acting out a visit from the Queen for a mockumentary style video, is being used as a training tool for social care students and a resource for Haringey adult services.

    Traditionally, carers working with people with dementia use more “professional power”, taking more executive decisions than with other groups, but  Middlesex researchers set out with the aim of improving the care older people receive by including them in it.

    The “Queen’s Visit” used improvisation, props, acting and comedy to involve the older people with methods proven to stimulate the mind, which research suggests may offer health benefits to people with dementia.

    Social work academic at Middlesex University, Trish Hafford-Letchfield, said the project was also designed to examine stereotypes about people with dementia and look at ways to provide a new type of service to them.

    She said: “It’s one of the requirements of professional training to have service users involved in the teaching and learning. With people who have dementia it’s very difficult to involve them in learning.

    “It’s about promoting relationships between staff and service users.   It’s about having fun together rather than just providing care.

    “By using comedy and improvisation, we were able to create a forum for exchange of ideas with older people without them having to rely on short-term memory which can be a problem for them.”

    Family members of the elderly people involved, who are often their carers, said they had seen glimpses of the fun side of their relative’s personality emerge during the filming, something which is often hard to see when caring for someone with dementia day-to-day.

    Middlesex academics worked with specialist comedy training company Silver Comedy on the project.  Using innovative improvisatory methods, the team worked with staff, carers and service users to set up a series of four workshops.   These were aimed at exploiting the funny side of some of the issues that arise in care settings, such as having to prepare for a Royal visit when resources are tight. 

    The resultant 20minute DVD will be used as a training tool for social care students, a resource for Haringey adult services and a memento for the service users who participated.

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