Got to love Australia Day! Of course one of the highlights is the ‘Australians of the Year Awards’. Nominations include exemplary Aussies from a variety of walks of life, among whom are avid health academics and advocates.
Ita Buttrose is our ‘Australian of the Year’. Besides her historical and impressive media career, she champions social and health issues, and is currently the national president of Alzheimer’s Australia.
According to reports in November 2012 more than 300,000 Australians have dementia, and by 2050 this figure could triple. The illness has been delegated as “Australia’s ninth National Health Priority Area”.
Love and laughter are intrinsic qualities for wellbeing. More and more people are recognising the mental nature of health and the benefits of spirituality on wellbeing.
A SMILE study was conducted in 2011 at the University of NSW’s School of Psychiatry: Dr Lee-Fay Low, a Research Fellow said, “I think in some facilities they are very task focused and think, ‘we have to do baths, showers, food and cleaning’ and because they are so busy looking after the clinical and physical needs of the residents they sometimes forget to look after the emotional needs so the lightheartedness (in the study) is part of that.”
Research at Southern Cross University, looked at whether stand-up comedy has therapeutic effects on dementia patients. Associate Professor John Stevens said, “… what was striking, individuals were starting to remember lines and routines from week to week. This is not expected from people with dementia. One woman, in particular, with severe short term memory problems, hadn’t spoken in two years. But relatives were gobsmacked when they came to the final performance concert to see her up on the stage performing and laughing.”
Along with laughter, love is essential for mental and physical well-being. Patients and their relatives, friends, health carers and practitioners find much needed support and a sense of connectedness from each other. For many there is also the need to feel connected to a higher being than themselves, a higher source of love.
People like author and physician Larry Dossey MD, for one, has seen over decades results in patients who used prayer as part of their therapy. In one account he says: “One patient I encountered during my first year in medical practice had terminal lung cancer for which no treatment was given; members of his church prayed nonstop for him and the cancer totally disappeared. I did not take these cases seriously, however, until the mid-80s, when I discovered the existence of scientific studies, dealing with humans and animals, showing the effects of prayer. After years spent researching this evidence, I became convinced that it is one of the best-kept secrets in medicine.”
A recent, small experience comes to mind. For the holidays we’d locked up the house and I hid my car keys because we were travelling in my husband’s car. When we returned I couldn’t remember where the heck I’d hidden them. I was frustrated and chastised myself for being so stupid, and after a few days of this began to panic. I needed more than just the car key on that key-ring! Because I’ve relied on prayer for many years to calm myself and change my unhelpful thinking, I knew that I could appeal to a divine order and thereby remember where to look. A few hours later I found them in a place where I didn’t remember hiding them. Though I’m not comparing my lack of mindfulness with dementia, I know that prayer works, and that the same principle can be applied to virtually any situation.
Wishing us all love, laughter, and good health for the Australia Day celebrations, and indeed for the New Year. A hearty congratulations to all those nominated as Australians of the Year – and best wishes for champions of causes that raise the standard of thinking and living for mankind.