Special Report: Improvising Alzheimer's

Bob McGinnis has Alzheimers disease and his family is using improv to help ease some of the anxiety and confusion. Photo provided by family.

Improvisational comedy has been popular for decades.

You may have heard of Second City, an improvisational theater that produced many famous comedians, or the TV show, "Whose Line is is Anyway?"

Improv is basically giving someone a scenario, then just "going with" it, no matter how ridiculous or far fetched it may seem.

Jeffrey Wisniewski is an instructor with the Carolina Improv Company in Myrtle Beach. He says, "Improv is all about being in the present and being in the moment so there is no script there is no memorization necessary."

Some people are now using improv with people who have Alzheimer's or other types of dementia.

Boo McGinnis and family friend Dennis Smith take care of Boo's husband, Bob. Bob has Alzheimer's, and Boo and Dennis remember when he started showing signs of the disease five years ago.

Boo says, "he was just having some confusion, and his interactions, he was more quiet the more people you got around him."

Boo and Dennis said they would try using improv with Bob for a couple weeks as part of this special report.

They tried a few "make believe" scenarios with Bob. In one, they pretended he was the supervisor of a building project, in the other, Dennis dressed as a woman.

They recorded video of the interactions and in both, Bob had a big smile.

And Boo McGinnis said the smile and the good times were well worth giving improv a try. She says, "we're going to make it fun somehow or another, because you cry so much you can't cry anymore almost."

Jeffrey Winsniweski says improv can soothe the person with Alzheimer's or dementia, "(improv) takes the pressure off them to have to remember where they're at or what they were doing in a particular time or even have to worry about what the future hold for someone who has Alzheimer's."

Dr. Paul Richardson, a physician at Conway Medical Center says he doesn't see a problem with improv and Alzheimer's so long as it doesn't cause the patient or caregiver any distress.

For more on using improvisational techniques with Alzheimer's and dementia patients, click here or visit

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