Caregivers Improvise to Improve Their Lives

The most popular television show in improv history is “Whose line is it, anyway?” This is where the majority of people know the basics of improvisation from - at least in it’s comedic, short form. But maybe you took a theater class and saw how improvisation could be used for dramatic purposes. Or you’ve had improvisation training from one of the traditionally least funny places - the HR department of your workplace.

Improvisation is being used, increasingly, in a number of non-traditional areas including health care. The Lou Ruvo Center and Second City partnered up to put on an eight-week session on the use of improvisation in caregiving - particularly for those who care for those with diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.

“The idea here is to take all this great improv training, combine it with insights from the caregiving community to create a robust program that can really help caregivers in their family situations,” Kelly Leonard, Executive Director of Insights and Applied Improvisation at the Second City said.

I was fortunate enough to take part in this class. Full disclosure: I’m also co-owner of ComedySportz, Las Vegas, a new improvisation group in Las Vegas.

Husband and wife team, Derek and Natalie Shipman, brought decades of improv experience and infinite kindness to the Lou Ruvo class. As an avid rule follower and junkie for all things improv, I was quickly struck by how accepting they were of things that fell outside the rules of improv as I understand them. The centerpiece tenet of “Yes, And” was more than a mantra - it was our truth.

Both Derek and Natalie, whom I’m happy to have come to know outside of the program, too, said repeatedly how impressed and affected they were by the group’s ability to connect almost instantly. There was a need from each of us to lighten the load we carry, as caregivers. By releasing just a little bit to someone else in our circle, we were all that much more empowered and empathetically charged to want to take the load off another of our classmates.

The first iteration of the program ended in May. The group has continued to get together, a bit less frequently, but no less powerfully. The meetings are currently scheduled for Wednesdays through Nov. 28th, from 12:30pm - 3:00pm. Classes are held at The Lakes Lutheran Church at 8200 W. Sahara.

For more information, please call or email Ruth Almen at 702-483-6054 or almenr2@ccf.org.

— written by Robert Cochrane

Parkinson's Place