There’s a lot of advice on how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s without, well, losing your mind.

Not a lot of it works.

I was a very earnest child. My poor parents had to deal with me taking things very literally. I still want to correct every mistake and misunderstanding. Luckily, now I have a lot less free time to waste on hopeless battles.

This attitude doesn’t work very well for life in general. It certainly doesn’t fly with someone who has Alzheimer’s.

Then I read an article about a woman whose mom moved in with her and her husband after her Alzheimer’s progressed. Her and her mother butted heads, but her husband and her mom hit it off wildly. This caused its own problems, as it can be tough to watch your husband become your mother’s new golden child.

How did he do it? He loved improv and took every moment with his mother-in-law as a new skit, a new adventure.

Something clicked for me.

I’ve never taken an improv class, although it’s on my list of things I’ve been meaning to do for years, next to learning Spanish. I’ve circled the improv classes in JCC fliers more times than I can count, but I’ve never actually signed up. But, I did have an elementary school teacher who was obsessed with improv and taught our class the basics.

And, thankfully, you can learn just about anything online.

My grandmother, unfortunately, wasn’t as fun as the woman in the story. Most of my time was still spent facing accusations and demands, but at least now instead of feeling insulted, I was working out the next best line. How could I distract her long enough to change the topic? Could I manage to make her laugh? (Usually, no, I could not).

Even if she wasn’t having a good time, my experience was much improved. Instead of trying to convince her that this kitchen that looked just like her kitchen was, in fact, her kitchen, I humored her. I made up elaborate stories about where we were and why it looked so much like her house. There were all sorts of zany reasons why we were waiting there, but don’t you worry, you’ll be heading home shortly. And then we’d get her bundled up and do the equivalent of spinner her around in a circle before a game of hide and seek so we could take her “home.”

I did particularly enjoy her stories about her trip to China as a young girl (not a real thing), the other people she met while she was on her cruise (she was in a nursing home for respite), and her complaints about her boss (her feet were bothering her from standing all day in high heels, although she was bed-ridden and had retired long before I was born).

It made the days a lot more fun and a lot less frustrating.

I never could quite get the rest of the family on board. Everyone else was still trying to convince her she was at home, those were her red shoes, that was FOX News on the TV, they already fed her dinner, and they were her daughter/granddaughter/neighbor. You can’t win them all.

But it worked for me. Maybe it’lll make your day a little easier.

About Cori Carl

As Director, Cori develops our comprehensive global communications and development strategy. She’s constantly tweaking our services based on data-driven marketing metrics and feedback from caregivers. She works to grow our community and build the reputation of The Caregiver Space by amplifying the message on social media, cultivating relationships with experts, creating organizational partnerships, and earning media coverage. She’s an active member of the community and regularly creates resources for Caregivers.

Cori joined The Caregiver Space after a decade of serving as a communications consultant for a number of nonprofit organizations and corporations furthering sustainable energy and urban planning solutions.

Cori has an MA in Corporate Communications from Baruch College at CUNY and a BA in Media Studies from Eugene Lang College at the New School University. She divides her time between Brooklyn and Toronto.

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