Yes. Communicating with dementia and Alzheimer's patients can be challenging. And, improvisational skills can provide caregivers, spouses, and adult children an entirely new way to interact with their loved ones.
"At its core, improvisation is all about learning relevant skills to interact with humans," states Ann Marie Mohr, a dementia practitioner, and founder of the 501(c) (3) organization Project Present.
Using her Second City Improv training, Ann Marie enriches the quality of life for both individuals living in the early stages of Alzheimer's and/or dementia and their caregivers. "I teach engaging improvisation workshops to encourage interpersonal connection, creative expression, and joyful collaboration."
Ann Marie uses yes/and statements, the foundation of improv, to teach caregivers new tools and strategies to better communicate with dementia and Alzheimer's patients.
"Caregivers learn how to enter the reality of the person they are caring for and accept their truth," explains Ann Marie.
"No. You can't drive to the grocery store," becomes, "Yes. We do need to go to the grocery store, and first, we need to make a list."
"Saying 'no' can add additional stress, confusion, and frustration to the situation. Using 'yes/and' statements allow the conversation and the patient to be redirected," Ann Marie states. "You are not lying to the patient. You are entering their truth."
More importantly, yes/and statements maintain the dignity of the person living with the disease. Ann Marie's research over the past two years shows an improved mood and quality of life for both patients and caregivers.
Perhaps laughter is the best medicine.
Project Present workshops, shared joint improv sessions, professional training, and general presentations are held at the Webster Groves library and community centers around St. Louis.
For more information, visit https://projectpresent.org/.