There’s a Rabbit at the Door

A few years ago I attended an improvisation workshop taught by the actor, Alan Arkin.  It is a course that would not have been approved for an Assisted Living Administrator’s continuing education credits, although it was as relevant as any course I have ever taken.  It began one evening with the participants sharing a little about themselves.   There were a few actors, several lawyers, a few teachers and psychologists, a retired pilot, and a fortune teller. When it was my turn, I explained that I owned a small assisted living for people with Alzheimers Disease.

“God, that must be depressing,” Mr. Arkin said.

“No. Not at all,” I said, nearly shouting. “I get to do improv everyday. The disease is depressing, but life can still be joyful and fun.” (This, as you may have discovered by now, is my mantra.)

In class, I was thrust into a scene where I had to sell car parts to a disgruntled customer who doubted that I could fix a sputtering engine with a mixture of melted chocolate and hair spray.  In a more serious scene,  I played “God,” as my partner pleaded for an answer to why her mother had died a tragic death.

We were instructed that to be successful everyone had to act as part of the team.  Each actor, Mr. Arkin explained, is responsible for making the other person look good. A scene is a collective failure or a collective success.  One strategy for success is to eliminate the word “No”.  The word, no, paralyzes action and puts an actor on the defensive.

This is also true in my interactions with my residents.

I have hundreds of stories. I will share a few in this form: what would you do if ?

What would you do if you arrived at the house to find three very happy residents working in the garden and you discovered that they had enthusiastically weeded out plants that were several years old. “Thank you so much,” you would say, giving each one a hug. “What an amazing job!”

What would you do if a resident accused you of stealing her purse?  You might ask what color it was, and then throw your hands to your face in horror and admit that you thought her purse was yours since they look exactly alike (while sending the staff off to find the “right one.”)  You may even apologize a few more times and wait for a hug to let you know – well, mistakes do happen.

And here is a most recent conversation with a resident who husband’s has been deceased for many years.

“Where is my husband?”

“I think he must still be working.”

“No, he’s not.   We are on vacation.”

“Maybe he went for a walk.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Does he like swimming?”

“No,” she says.

“Well,” I reply, knowing she likes to eat.  “Let’s have some cookies while we wait.”

“Sure,” she says.

Speak Your Mind

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Comments

  1. Rita Carton says:

    Loved this story and it is so relevant in everyday life and everything one does. No is such a debilitating word. But especially appreciate how you don’t have to be right and win with your residents. It’s enough for them to feel appreciated and get their mind onto something else. Why aren’t there more people like you – and in California??

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  3. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian,Diet Guide!