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How Can Improv Improve Dementia Care?


caregiver talking with senior man with dementia
Looking for ways to improve dementia care for a loved one? Try improv.

Creativity, flexibility, and a healthy dose of lighthearted fun are among the top ingredients to healthy and effective dementia care. It stands to reason then that a spontaneous activity like improvisation is a great method to connect and engage with a person struggling with cognitive challenges. Not only does it enable you to pivot and embrace unexpected plot twists, but it enables you to find out about the senior in your care.


So, How Exactly Does Improv Improve Dementia Care?


The objective of improv in dementia care is to meet the person in their reality and to supply them with opportunities to express themselves in whatever way that is natural and comfortable. It is about establishing an environment in which the person is heard, respected, and never corrected. It takes more listening than talking, and accepting any feelings or thoughts the person would like to share.


Here are a couple of improv activity tips to try. After getting an idea of how it works, the sky is the limit! Utilize your own creativity and understanding of the person you are caring for to develop ideas that will perform best for you personally.

  • “Yes, and…”: This is an easy but incredibly important technique to incorporate throughout all of your interactions with someone with Alzheimer's. It is the opposite to the all-too common, “No, but…,” where we might be inclined to correct something we know to be untrue. Instead, if the person with Alzheimer's says, “I have to bake cookies today for my daughter to take to school,” an appropriate response would be, “Yes, and tell me more about what is going on at school today.” Your goal is to concur with the person and encourage them to keep the conversation going.

  • Picnic: In this activity, you’re going to imagine you are packing a picnic basket with items that start with each letter of the alphabet. Modify it accordingly based on the person’s ability level. And of course, any item they mention, whether it begins with the correct letter or not, is acceptable.

  • What’s in the box?: Pretend you are holding a box (or use a real, empty box). Simulate opening the box and peeking inside. Hand the box to the senior and ask what they would choose to put into the box. You can use the “Yes, and…” prompt to encourage them to tell you more. Or, ask them to hand you back the box, and you make up what you think should go inside. Take turns passing back and forth so long as the senior is engaged and interested.

Our dementia care team has an abundance of innovative suggestions to make each day the best it can be for those we serve. Contact us at 416-422-2273 to request a free in-home consultation to find out more information.

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