An Unorthodox Yet Effective Approach to Dementia Care: Improv

Senior man with dementia talking with caregiver
Improv could be the effective approach to dementia care you’ve been looking for!

Healthy and effective approaches to dementia care require creativity, adaptability, and a healthy dose of lighthearted fun. It stands to reason then that a spontaneous activity like improvisation is an ideal way to connect and engage with someone dealing with cognitive challenges. Not only does it allow you to pivot and embrace unexpected plot twists, but it allows you to learn more about the senior in your care. 

So, How Can Improv Help in Alzheimer’s Care Work?

As a caregiver, improv in dementia care helps the aging adult you care for feel more comfortable within their reality and allows them opportunities to express themselves in any manner that is comfortable and natural. It is about creating an environment where the person is respected, heard, and never corrected. It takes more listening than talking, and accepting any feelings or thoughts a senior loved one wants to share. 

Below are a couple of improv activity suggestions to try. Once you master the craft, there is no limit on this approach to dementia care! Use your own creativity and knowledge of the individual you are providing care for to formulate ideas which will work best for you personally. 

  • Picnic: In this activity, you’re going to imagine you are packing a picnic basket with items that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Make the necessary changes based on the individual’s ability level. And of course, any item they mention, whether it starts with the correct letter or not, is acceptable. 
  • “Yes, and…”: This is a straightforward but extremely important technique to incorporate throughout all of your interactions with someone with dementia. It is the alternative of the all-too common, “No, but…” where we might be inclined to correct something we know to be untrue. Instead, if the person with dementia says, “I have to bake cupcakes today for my daughter to take to school!” an appropriate response would be, “Yes, and tell me more about what’s going on in school today.” The point is to go with the flow and encourage them to keep the conversation going.
  • What’s in the box?: Pretend you are holding a box (or use a real, empty box). Simulate opening the box and looking inside. Hand the box to the older adult and ask what they would choose to put in 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 person is interested and engaged.

Our dementia care team has plenty of innovative suggestions to make each day the best it can be for those we serve. Contact us online or at 213-383-2273 to request a free in-home consultation to find out more information about our home care services and more effective approaches to dementia care.