Producer Chana Joffe-Walt talks to a woman named Karen Stobbe and her husband Mondy about a plan they’ve recently enacted in their family. Karen’s mother lives with them and she has dementia. Karen and Mondy are actors and they stumbled upon a skill they have that is incredibly useful in communicating with Karen’s mother – improv.
I’ve been catching up on my podcasts recently and listened to this episode of This American Life last week, Magic Words. The episode features a few stories about the power of words. The second chapter was particularly moving. It’s about how to connect with and care for people living with Alzheimer’s using improv.
Alzheimer’s is obviously devastating to everyone involved, it robs patients and caregivers of the ability to recall shared experiences and memories. It’s frustrating and sad. Suddenly you only have the here and now to connect on, which is where improv becomes useful. Improv asks people to accept the story (say yes!) and contribute to the story. The results are useful and moving, and yes, sometimes funny.
I thought of this podcast on Friday when I went to an improv show. I discussed improv/alzheimer’s with some friends afterwards. We all agreed that it’s a unique way to use improv outside of a comedy setting. Hopefully you’ll agree.