Thanks to friend, dancer, fellow Certified Laban Analyst, and Assistant Professor at Roger Williams University, Cathy Nicoli for sharing the link to this story, Rainy Days and Mondys on NPR's This American Life with Ira Glass. It only took me 7 weeks to finally sit and listen. I was delighted to hear Karen Stobbe's story of her attempts to apply improvisational skills to her life with Mother, with whom Karen, husband Mondy and 15 y.o. daughter were living with. Karen is a wonderful woman whom I've met over the past several years at the Pioneer Network conferences.
Karen's story reveals how much easier it is for her husband to apply improv skills to engage with her mother than for her. That is a story very familiar to me, and is why I think that providing a compassionate environment other than one's original home can be an appropriate alternative. As I listened to the story, I was reminded of the difficulty I had when my father's story conflicted with my internal sense of myself and my history. It was particulary difficult when I brought my father to my home for a family dinner the first time and he asked why I hadn't invited my mother. Didn't my dad know who I was, didn't he know that I would never fail to invite my mom if I could? That's why I needed to impress upon him the memory that my mother had died. Never mind the pain I caused him, I was protecting my sense of myself. It took me a few times of re-injuring him with this reminder before I realized that the compassionate thing to do was to join his reality.
Karen Stobbe calls this "Yes, and". She offers creative ideas on her website, In the Moment. It's the only moment there is for people with dementia. In fact, it's really the only moment that any of us have.