Caregivers of dementia patients have a tough job. Not only is their loved one lost in their own world with significant memory loss and decreased cognitive ability, he/she often states inappropriate or untrue facts. Karen Stobbe developed, In the Moment, an educational program for caregivers to help them better relate to their care receiver. She uses techniques borrowed from improvisational theater to provide help for caregivers of dementia patients.
Rules to Apply to Dementia Patients
The most fundamental rule in improv theater is Yes and…. How actors communicate with one another on stage will determine how interesting and developed their scenes become. Isn’t it the same for our personal relationships with others? The rules of Yes and… remind actors and caregivers to stay on track.
- Accept offers
- Silence can be powerful
- Accept the reality given to you
- Be in the moment
- Step into their World
- Go with the flow
An Example to Help Caregivers
Rather than trying to bring a patient into the caregiver’s reality, which is not possible– the caregiver must enter the patient’s reality as a means to connect and to relationship build. How can the caregiver apply these rules? For example, if a patient with dementia says:
“I’m expecting a baby in two weeks.”
Rather than respond:
“Mom, you’re 83 years old. It’s not biologically possible for you to have a baby!”
A better response might be:
“Oh how excting? Do you know the gender of the baby?”
“Yes, it’s a girl. I’ve always wanted a little girl.”
By agreeing to the patient’s reality, the caregiver has just opened up the lines of communication as opposed to shutting them down. By going with the flow and stepping into their world, the caregiver gives the patient an opportunity to express himself. This in turn reduces tension and unnecessary conflict.
In a Nursing Facility
Using this technique can sometimes produce comic results. In fact, caregivers in nursing homes can also facilitate improvisation groups for patients with moderate dementia using Yes and to role play and build scenes. The humor and silliness that results from this form of group interaction can be therapeutic for the participants.
Yes and is another method to add to a caregiver’s arsenal of communication tools to help manage and communicate with his/her care receiver.