Views & Reviews Personal View

Have you heard the one about the man with Alzheimer’s disease?

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 07 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2872
  1. Sophie Behrman, core trainee 2 doctor, Oxford Clinic, Littlemore Mental Health Centre, Oxford OX4 4XN, UK
  1. sophie.behrman{at}

Don’t forget the importance of humour in caring for people with dementia, says Sophie Behrman

Working as a healthcare assistant in a nursing home I had the pleasure of looking after a woman in her 80s who had Alzheimer’s disease. Apart from the occasional “Ta, pet” her communication was limited to facial expressions and occasional tutting and sighing.

This word, “limited,” however, does not begin to describe the interactions possible and the fun and humour she brought to the nursing home. Words cannot do justice to her range of facial expressions and comic timing. Her lack of words somehow amplified what she could communicate. I have since gone on to care for people with dementia as a junior doctor and am struck by the complexity and depth of communication possible once a rapport has been established.

People with physical disability often find that they are not appropriately engaged in conversation, or some concurrent learning disability is presumed. I am concerned that people with dementia may also not be seen as worthwhile …

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