April 27, 2011
Staff finds laughter best medicine of all
SUNY Cortland health professor tells hospital personnel about benefit of making someone smile
Cortland Regional Medical Center nursing and rehabilitation staff took a break Tuesday afternoon to shape balloons, laugh out loud and let loose as SUNY Cortland professor Tony Trunfio gave a presentation on the importance of laughter.
Trunfio told a room of about 30 people in the hospital’s nursing and rehabilitation center, that dealing with patients in a light-hearted, optimistic way has been proven to have medical benefits.
By laughing, patients can improve their sleep, experience relief from pain and anxiety and enjoy their stay, regardless of their diagnosis, he said.
At one point, to prove his point about the benefits of laughter, Trunfio had four people lie on the floor, each one with their head propped on the abdomen of the other.
At his command, one person let loose a loud belly laugh, followed quickly by a trickle-down effect of laughter. Soon two of the four volunteers were wiping tears from their eyes and all were unable to stop laughing.
“It’s about spreading that laughter contagion. It increases not just the quality of life. Laughter not only adds years to your life but life to your years,” Trunfio said after his presentation.
Trunfio teaches stress management and wellness and health promotion at SUNY Cortland.
“Think of fun, creative ways to lighten the mood and atmosphere and distract people from the situation at hand, regardless of the infirmity,” Trunfio said.
Encouraging the staff to bring out their inner child, Trunfio showed five volunteers how to shape balloons into animals and also gave tips on what pranks to play on patients and how to improve their physical humor.
For example, a difficult patient’s bed could be taped off with police caution tape, or a patient’s floor could be covered with bubble wrap to make a trip to the bathroom noisy.
Certified Nursing Assistant Elma Murray said she got a kick out of Trunfio’s presentation.
“This is not a place to be a grumpy Gus. People always feel better if they are happier,” Murray said.
Debra Abbey, a nutrition technician, said at times the shifts can be stressful in long-term care, so a positive attitude helps.
“There are a lot of demands of the job and regulations that make it challenging,” Abbey said.
Kevin Dean, an admissions coordinator, said he thought the presentation was excellent.
“We can all ... laugh a little more. We deal with a lot of different people who could benefit from having more humor in their life,” Dean said.
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