Blog: Improv and visiting my mum in an Aged Care home
In this blog, I share how improv helps me connect better with my 94-year-old mother who lives
in an Aged Care home and has dementia.
My mum, Nora, is 94 years old. She grew up on a dairy farm in western Victoria as one of 7
children. She moved to Melbourne, met dad, and they had four children. We all love visiting
her. She often can’t remember what she had for breakfast but she has a wonderful long-
term memory of days on the farm, travelling to school by horse and cart and songs from
early years. Learning improv has made my visits with her a joy.
Here are three lessons from improv that have helped me connect with my mum:
1. “What can I appreciate about what is?” –
Before Improv I would start by seeing a
problem. Now, I start with what I can learn or enjoy today. Like one day mum says.
“Ha. Ha. Ha.”. In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘oh she thinks I’m trying to be funny. What
did I say wrong?”. Instead I looked for what might be good and just matched her like
a game and said, “He! He! He!”. To my great surprise she then sang, “Little brown
jug, how I love thee!”. It turns out there is a whole song, “Little Brown Jug” that was
a favourite at dances and she can sing the verses. What a gift! Because of improv, I
learnt a new song and we got to sing Little Brown Jug together.
2. “If I could paint a picture of it working well what would it look like?” –
I could say the ideal is that she doesn’t have dementia. I’m seeing my mum as a problem to fix.
Improv taught me that the gift is in the relationship and she is a person that I can
meet not to see as a problem to be fixed. Often, I would think of the things we could
do – walk in the garden, visit a coffee shop or go for a drive. They’re just things.
Now I think if we meet, my mum can move towards health and so can I. Improv
taught me to be clearer that it is the relationships and connections we really want.
3. “What is one small thing I can do to move towards that picture?”
I’m not confident when singing. I find it embarrassing. One day it started raining as we walked in the
garden around the Aged Care home. My mum started singing, “Never mind the
weather, never mind the rain. Here we are together, whoops she goes again”. Then
she started cackling away. So, we sang this together. The next line is, “La-di-da-di-
da, La-di-da-di-dee, All good pals and jolly good company!”. Joining in here
was a small thing.
Sometimes it’s just a visit. But every now and then there is a flashing moment of magic -
Improv has helped us connect better...