Improv Theater For One – Dealing with Dementia

breeda_engaged_homeIf you’ve ever played along with the reality of a person with dementia – you’ve experienced the thrill of Improvisational Theater. While no audience is there to applaud your creativity, having this mindset in how you approach the many challenging situations of caregiving can help you find creative solutions and reduce stress. While caring for my mother I found myself playing a daily game of improv as I never knew who would be visiting in her room, where she wanted to go or what she wanted to do. Instead of trying to bring her to my reality I found ways to engage her in what she was experiencing and redirect her to keep her safe.

You may not be Robin Williams or Jonathon Winters or Amy Poehler – but you can listen to the person and go along on the ride and have some fun at the same time. I found that by not offering resistance and having the mindset of an Improv actor, I was less annoyed and frustrated at the repeated requests, the imaginary visitors and relentless demands to go places that were not realistic. I totally gave up trying to bring my mother to my reality, I smiled and asked questions instead and had chats about what she was experiencing and thinking about. These chats didn’t last long but instead of exercises in frustration, I turned them into mini improv moments and they were often very funny and when no resistance was offered, she would change the subject herself

The first rule of Improv is to (mentally) go with your partner(s). To be agreeable and to move the story forward. Caregivers can learn from Improv Actors to be flexible and improve the quality of life of those in care and reduce their own stress at the same time.

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