3:22:48 PM

This is a combo of Improvisation definitions and Alzheimer’s disease with a little creativity here and there. A lot of the improv definitions apply directly to caregiving.



Level at which certain actions and activities can be carried out.

considered apart from any application to a particular object. expressing a quality apart from any object. ( honesty, whiteness) Opposite : see concrete

Embracing the offers made by other performers in order to advance the scene.

accepting other’s reality
To regard another person’s beliefs, ideas, time and whole world as being actual or true. jumping into their world.

The process of moving the scene forwards.

The question asked of the audience in order to start a scene.

active listening
listening with your whole attention on the person who is speaking. listening with mind, body & soul

activities of daily living (ADLs)
Personal care activities necessary for everyday living, such as eating, bathing, grooming, dressing, and toileting. People with dementia may not be able to perform necessary functions without assistance. Professionals often assess a person’s ADLs to determine what type of care is needed.

adverse reaction
An unexpected effect of drug treatment that may range from trivial to serious or life- threatening, such as an allergic reaction.

Vocal or motor behavior (screaming, shouting, complaining, moaning, cursing, pacing, fidgeting, wandering, etc.) that is disruptive, unsafe, or interferes with the delivery of care in a particular environment. An abnormal behavior is considered agitation only if it poses risk or discomfort to the individual with Alzheimer’s or his/her caregiver. Agitation can be a nonspecific symptom of one or more physical or psychological problems.

Alzheimer’s disease
A progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by loss of function and death of nerve cells in several areas of the brain, leading to loss of mental functions such as memory and learning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.


1. The manner in which one behaves. 2. Psychology. The actions or reactions of persons or things in response to external or internal stimuli.

Rejecting information or ideas offered by another player. One of the most common problems experienced by new improvisers. In conventional theatre, the term is used to mean something different. In caregiving, the term can mean the same except insert caregiver instead of player.

body language
The bodily gestures, postures, and facial expressions by which a person communicates without using words with others.


cognitive abilities
Mental abilities such as judgment, memory, learning, comprehension, and reasoning.

The exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior.

1. of or relating to an actual, specific thing or instance; particular: had the concrete evidence needed to convict. 2. Existing in reality or in real experience; perceptible by the senses; real: concrete objects such as trees.

1. Having the ability or power to create: Human beings are creative animals.
2. Productive; creating. 3. Characterized by originality and expressiveness;

The process of providing cues, prompts, hints, and other meaningful information, direction, or instruction to aid a person who is experiencing memory difficulties. Also : multiple cueing - providing the same information in different ways and to different senses.


A false idea typically originating from a misinterpretation but firmly believed and strongly maintained in spite of contradictory proof or evidence.

The loss of intellectual functions (such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning) of sufficient severity to interfere with a person’s daily functioning. Dementia is not a disease itself but rather a group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases or conditions. Symptoms may also include changes in personality, mood, and behavior. Dementia is irreversible when caused by disease or injury but may be reversible when caused by drugs, alcohol, hormone or vitamin imbalances, or depression.

See "blocking".

Taking over a scene and not letting other performers influence its direction. Makes you an unpopular improviser. And an unpopular co-worker if you do not work as a team.


Assigning attributes to another performer's character

A task, problem, or other effort performed to develop or increase a skill

explore and heighten
To take an idea and see where it leads, exploring its natural consequences while simultaneously raising the stakes.


being responsive to change; to adapt, Synonyms : balance, adjust, maintain, modify, ready, conform

Webster says : A center of interest or activity. Close or narrow attention; concentration. In improvisation : The audience’s attention should only be in one place at any given time; that place ( or person ) is the “ focus “ of the scene. If more than one thing is going on at the same time, the focus is split. Experienced improvisers will share the focus, inexperienced improvisers will steal or reject the focus.

frame of reference
A referral point on which judgments are made; a referral point from which one views the world; a reference conditioned ( framed) by culture, family and education.


An accepted group activity which is limited by rules and group agreement; fun, spontaneity, enthusiasm, and joy accompany games. An activity providing entertainment or amusement; a pastime: party games; word games. A competitive activity or sport in which players contend with each other according to a set of rules.

A nonsense language. Although you can gain meaning from the body language, facial expressions and vocal characteristics

When a performer gives and idea of action or movement of the scene to another. Always accept the gift of other performers.


To invent, compose, or recite without preparation. Synonyms : not prepare, extemporize, think on one's feet, wing it, ad-lib, be unprepared, obey an impulse, act on the spur of the moment, blurt, come out with, say whatever comes into one's head, rise to the occasion

One who improvises. Basically everyone improvises - just some people do it on a stage

information overload
Introducing too much information into the scene, making it difficult or impossible to ever find a satisfying ending that resolves everything.


Use of an outside offer within a scene. To justify.To demonstrate or prove to be just, right, or valid.


Karen Stobbe


To express certain emotions, especially mirth, delight, or derision, by a series of spontaneous, usually unarticulated sounds often accompanied by corresponding facial and bodily movements. A person with Alzheimer’s or dementia does not lose this ability , but their sense of humor may change with the progression of the disease.

Behavior that involves inappropriately changing or layering clothing on top of one another.

1. To make an effort to hear something: listen to the radio; listening for the bell. 2. To pay attention; heed


Standing in a place where you can't be seen properly, or in such a way that you're hiding someone else or some important action. Should be avoided.

To reflect in or as if in a mirror. To imitate, emulate, flatter, echo, resemble, be affected, pretend, represent


The story told by a scene. Scenes should have a clear beginning, middle and end.

non-verbal communication
Any form of communicating that does not involve words or symbols. Body language, facial expressions, vocal characteristics. Very important in improv and caregiving


The thing that a character/person in a scene/exercise is trying to achieve.

Any dialogue or action which moves the scene/action forward. Offers should be accepted.


Persistent repetition of an activity, word, phrase, or movement, such as tapping, wiping, and picking.

According to Tom Kitwood, “ It is a standing or status that is bestowed upon one human being, by others, in the context of relationship and social being. It implies recognition, respect and trust. Both the according of personhood, and the failure to do so, have consequences that are empirically testable. Here’s a few other definitions: “ It involves promoting their continued individuality rather than forcing them to do whatever the group does. “ “ It is the golden rule come to life - how do you want to treated as a person, individual, a human being ? “To me personhood embodies all of those characteristics, values, experiences and nuances that makes each person who they are. Personhood to me is what makes each of us unique and special. “

Turning one’s ideas and intent into action and movement.

The state, quality, sense, or fact of being near or next; closeness


Quality of life
This is a hard one to define for people. We all know that we want “it” for our loved ones and ourselves. But what is it? There is no Webster’s definition. So here is my definition: That a living creature finds pleasure or enjoyment in their life and is still able to engage or participant in some manner. It differs with each individual and circumstance. I also believe it is one’s attitude that helps determine your quality of life.


raising the stakes
Making the events of the scene have greater consequences for the characters. One technique for advancing.

To change the direction or course of.“ I want to go home. “, says the person with Alzheimer's. disease. “ Yes and let’s stop and look at the birds on the way “, says the caregiver. Redirect them from a problem situation to another thought or activity. See Yes and...

Life review activity aimed at surfacing and reviewing positive memories and experiences.

repetitive behaviors
Repeated questions, stories, and outbursts or specific activities done over and over again, common in people with dementia.

A short break or time away.


Doing things in a logical, predictable order. shadowing. Following, mimicking, and interrupting behaviors that people with dementia may experience.

A character’s (or person’s ) self worth. Many scenes are built around status transfers, in which one character’s status, drops while another rises. Webster says: Position relative to that of others; standing: Her status is that of a guest.


talking heads
A scene that involves a lot of standing around (or worse - sitting) and talking rather than engaging in physical action.

Work done by several associates with each doing a part but all working together regardless of status. A group of individuals performing a task whether small or great, depending the help of one another to complete the task.



validation therapy
“Forcing the Alzheimer's-afflicted to "face reality" can often be counter- productive”, Naomi Feil said, explaining that when patients become confused, they tend to turn inward and lose their desire to communicate. The idea behind validation therapy is to just let them talk, and to act as if what they are saying is perfectly fine, even when they appear to be living in another time or place, or are confused about who is who. There is no evidence that using validation therapy will improve patients' memories or cognitive abilities, but it does seem to increase their enjoyment of life.

vocal characteristics
The tone, volume and inflection of your voice.
tone - How you make one word mean several things by altering your voice
volume - How loud and how soft your voice is
inflection - How you articulate, enunciate or pronounce words


Failing to make decisions. Talking about what you're going to do instead of doing it.

Common behavior that causes people with dementia to stray and become lost in familiar surroundings.

Accepting an offer but failing to act on it.


Yes and..
There is no more important rule in improvisation than “ Yes And .” This statement , by itself, accepts any offer made by another and moves the action forward with additional information or action. But beyond that, it is also an important statement when fostering a positive attitude.

Karen Stobbe & Dylan Bolin
Improvisation for the Theatre by Viola Spolin
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.


I wish I would’ve had these workshops when I first started working with Alzheimer’s patients. Instead of being kind of thrown in to it and learning by trial and error.
~ In the Moment Workshop Participant

©2003 Karen Stobbe and "In The Moment". Material may be freely distributed with proper accreditation.