‘Improv for Care’ Grad inspires learning with intentional play.
‘Improv for Care’ Grad inspires learning with intentional play.

“Improvisation is the practice of being unpracticed, similar to how we respond to all kinds of new things every day. And sometimes, we have to respond to old situations in new ways,” explains Kelly Leonard, executive director, Insights & Applied Improvisation, Second City Works.

When Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Clinical Social Work Manager Ruth Almén, LCSW, heard those words from the stage at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival, her mind began racing with all the commonalities between classic improv, which has its roots in social work, and caregiving.

She wasn’t the first to establish such a connection. Anne Libera, director of Comedy Studies, Second City Works, says, “Improvisation for care is designed to bring together caregivers in a safe, fun space to play together, be together, and to share their stories.”

And that’s exactly what happened at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health this Spring for the 19 family caregivers who fearlessly self-selected for the pilot class of Improv for Care, a collaboration between the center; Second City, the legendary comedy group out of Chicago; and Caring Across Generations, a national caregiver education and advocacy group.

Together, the originators developed a syllabus for the six-week session, which was taught by two Las Vegas-based Second City alumni. Participants — all of whom are care partners to people with cognitive decline — learned how to apply the basics of improv to increase communication between themselves and a loved one, to celebrate the new experiences created together and better care for themselves in the process.

Almén says, “I witnessed caregivers who admit to struggling under the heavy burden of the ‘job’ suddenly become so present in the moment that they began to play. They were willing to trust class members and instructors, and together, they had some incredible insights about the challenges of caregiving.”

Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations, was delighted to see that Improv for Care fulfilled its creators’ intent as “a program that provides concrete tools to navigate the caregiving experience, to make it one that is as sustainable and nourishing as it can be.”

Care to join the fun and fulfillment?

As with so many of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s programs, Improv for Care was made available at no cost to participants, thanks to philanthropic support. If you’d like to learn how your support can make a difference, please contact us at 702.263.9797 or DonateNevada@ccf.org.

To receive a monthly calendar of educational events for patients, caregivers and the community, contact LouRuvoSocialServ@ccf.org.

Photo: Improv for Care participants

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