Breakfast’s over and I’m at the sink. doing the washing-up. Lena, usefully, picks up the empty bag the bread came in, scrunches it up, and drops it on the draining-board.
This is how the conversation usually goes.
– Could you just put it in the bin?
– Yes, I know.
– OK. So put it in the bin.
– I am putting it in the … I am.
– No you’re not. Can’t you just take it and put it in the bin?
Lena wanders away. I’m seething, more angry at myself than her, for letting such a stupid little thing get to me. Lena’s disappointed, sensing that she probably failed something again although she’s not sure what.
But today it was different. Last night I watched a TED presentation from Karen Stobbe and Mondy Carter, who use improv methods in their work with dementia. Improv! I know it makes for great comedy but using it with dementia … who’d have thought? From Karen and Mondy, I learnt about ‘Yes, And …’, improv’s shorthand for accepting whatever situation comes up, never saying no, and just moving it on. Go with the flow, they say. And always think about deep meaning – what lies beneath the words and actions.
So Lena plonks down her crushed-up bag. Meaning? She wants to help.
– Ah thanks. Do you want to make someone really happy?
I put the bag in one hand. take the other and lead her over to the other side of the kitchen where the bin sits. I flip the lid up.
– I think someone’s hungry.
Now she gets it, and drops the bag straight in. I make that munching sound that hungry bins make, and rub my satisfied stomach. Lena throws her arms around me and says ‘I LOVE you’.
That doesn’t happen too often these days.