Fellowship Community, a continuing care retirement community in Whitehall, PA, recently partnered with the nonprofit ArtsQuest to present a dementia improvisation learning experience for care partners of those living with dementia.

“We know the everyday struggles of care partners and are confident that the program will improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers,” Mary Kay McMahon, RN, MHA, NHA, president and CEO of Fellowship Community.

Many of the guidelines of comedy improvisation are helpful in teaching people the best way to communicate with loved ones affected by memory loss, according to Nancy Clee, RN-BC, MSN, the CCRC’s memory care specialist.

Clee conducted research on the similarities between improv and caring for people with dementia, attended a dementia improv class and then attended an ArtsQuest improv class. There, she met improv comedian and instructor Addyson Young and discussed developing a program together.

The program, held Oct. 21, included a quick review of the symptoms of dementia and featured an interactive learning experience using improv guidelines as a best practice for communicating.

The most important guideline for improv is the “yes and” theory, according to Young, because it gives both comedians and care partners the ability to keep the lines of communication open and encourages conversation. Clee has implemented the practice and said she finds it beneficial in working with residents.

“Join those with memory loss in their reality,” she explained. “If someone believes they are 16 and in high school instead of 91 with failing health, just go along with it.”

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