"Memory Lane TV" Soothes Anxiety & Agitation in Dementia

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Using Humor for those with Alzheimer's disease

Activities directors and other healthcare professionals here is a great dementia resource for caregivers and healthcare professinals.

Here is information on being the best caregiver you can be

Here is a way for nurses administrators, social workers and other health care professionals to get an easyceu or two

Chicago Tribune
by Lisa Pevtow

To an Alzheimer's patient, there's nothing funny about forgetting to turn off the oven, losing a telephone number or misplacing books from the library. But turning those mishaps into punch lines might turn out to be therapeutic.

The idea that improvisational comedy might help those in the early to middle stages of Alzheimer's cope with their disease is being tested by the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company

Not having to memorize lines or remember a story narrative might spur confidence by freeing patients from worry over lost words or thoughts, and actually stimulate their brain chemistry to forge new protections against further onslaught of the disease, researchers say.

A possible role for creative arts in improving life for those with memory loss is being studied nationwide. In the region, besides Northwestern's Memory Ensemble project, which will continue in the fall, Elmhurst College researchers are looking at whether theater classes have a measurable effect on seniors' brains, and in Northfield, a day services facility is encouraging spontaneous storytelling.

At a recent improv session, skits progressed unexpectedly: A pair of lovers morphed into a mushroom hunting expedition; an ice skating adventure became a camping trip.

"I don't know what I'm doing," one of the performers confided, "but it's freeing."

Susan Walsh-Haggerty, 63, of Oak Lawn, appreciated the experience.

"I've learned that I am imaginative, playful and creative," said Walsh-Haggerty, pausing to search for the right word. "I can be funny."

Mary Beth Roth, whose husband, Wolfgang Roth, 80, participated, said he couldn't tell her 10 minutes later what he'd done, but, "Every day after class, there was a lightness in his spirit. There was a buoyancy about him, a more positive attitude."

Wolfgang Roth, a former dean of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston and a retired Hebrew scripture scholar, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2007. His wife said the class "opened an avenue of new experience for him." She recalled that during a skit about a student and teacher, her husband accidentally used the wrong word, but everyone laughed, because it was funny, and the skit just went in another direction.

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