ResearchThe SMILE Study – Sydney Multi-site Intervention of Laughter Bosses & Elder Clowns From 2009 to 2011, The Humour Foundation was involved in world first quantitative research - the SMILE Study. The study measured the impact the Elder Clowns program had on residents living with dementia in aged care facilities. Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, it was led by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre at the University of NSW.
DesignSingle-blind clustered randomised control design 35 RACF units Total of 398 residents Professional Elder Clowns provided 9-12 weekly interventions These were augmented by resident engagement by facility Laughter Bosses Control units received usual care.
- Decrease depression in residents
- Decrease behavioural disturbances of residents
- Improve quality of life of residents
- Increase happiness of residents
- Increase positive behaviours of residents
- Improve staff morale
- Have a positive impact on facility atmosphere
- Satisfaction with what they had achieved in undertaking the role
- Finding greater enjoyment at work
- Increased interest in the residents as unique individuals
- Positive change in staff attitudes and approach to care delivery
- Reduced stress levels
- Improved communication, teamwork, relationships and empathy among staff.
Churchill FellowshipIn 2012 David Symons (Artistic Director of The Humour Foundation) received a Churchill Fellowship to investigate Elder Clown programs in Scotland, the Netherlands, Canada and the USA. His findings are detailed in his Churchill Report available here https://www.churchilltrust.com.au/fellows/detail/3662/David+Symons Some of his key findings include:
- Well-trained clowns have a powerful role to play in the psychosocial well-being of people living with dementia in aged care facilities.
- Well-trained clowns do not infantilise people living with dementia. They affirm, empower, honour and delight these people. Doctors, nurses, care staff, activities coordinators and managers of aged care facilities are all amongst the people who see a significant role for clowns in the overall care of people with dementia.
- Clown programs work most effectively when care staff receive thorough briefing and role play experience of a program prior to implementation and when management is clearly supportive of the program. Clown programs are also more effective when the clown visits are regular and frequent (at least weekly)
- Care staff can significantly add to the well-being of people living with dementia in their facility when trained to incorporate performance principles into their work. Staff of aged care facilities also benefit from clown programs operating in their workplaces through the extra knowledge gleaned about residents by clowns and by the joy clowns bring to staff as well as residents.
Some comments about the Elder Clown programs from staff within the facilities: