“Positive Approach to Brain Change” with Teepa Snow

As an occupational therapist with 40 years of clinical practice, Teepa Snow is one of the leading educators on dementia and the care that comes with it.

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My colleague and I had the privilege of attending a whole day seminar with her recently in Claremont, and were very impressed with all the information provided.  Not only is Mrs. Snow very knowledgeable about the decline in brain functioning of people with dementia, I was personally intrigued by her practical tips about how to take care of people with dementia in a respectful way.  Something as simple as ‘Greet before you treat’, can go such a long way.  The same with ‘asking your client/patient for permission’ before starting to touch them, adjusting their clothing, etc.

Teepa Snow is very direct in her approach in teaching others, so at times I was a little startled with her directness, but she made sure we understood her message, no doubt about that.

We were reminded that all humans have 5 basic needs:

  • Nourishment and drink/liquids

  • Wake/sleep cycle

  • Elimination (in every sense: sweat, saliva, snot, pee and poop)

  • Seeking comfort

  • Being pain free

So when people with dementia ‘act out’, they probably are in need of one of the basic needs but have trouble communicating what it is exactly they need since ‘their brain is dying’.  One of Mrs. Snow’s many tips was to repeat what the patient/client says since they are unable to talk and listen to themselves.  When a caregiver repeats, they are able to agree or correct their message.

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It is important to understand that dementia is not only a memory problem, there are many changes in structural and chemical function because the brain is failing.  Another example/tip from Mrs. Snow was not to stand in front of the patient/client but rather to their side.  Mrs. Snow explained the reason: the patient/client’s vision has changed to tunnel vision (pretend to look into binoculars with your hands in front of your eyes), and when standing in front of the patient/client, they can feel blocked in (no way to escape), which might result in some physical altercation.

We were fortunate to learn first handed from an expert.  Hopefully you can find some tips in this article.

You can find more info and some educational (link to) video’s at: http://teepasnow.com/

For extra support as caregiver, you can always attend our Dementia Support Group, each Third Saturday of the month at Pacifica Senior Living, 6280 Clay St. in Riverside, CA. If you would like to talk more, or in need of individual counseling, please don’t hesitate to contact our office Central Counseling Services (951) 778-0230. We have counselors available 7 days a week in two locations (Riverside and Murrieta). 

By Ilse Aerts, LPC

Any struggles you might have today, you don’t have to conquer them alone.  My personal, professional and volunteer experience will help shine a different light on your struggles of grief and loss, parenting struggles, life’s challenges.  Coming from a different culture myself, I understand the adjusting challenges you might come across (different rules and expectations, different language,...).  By offering guidance and support, together we can rediscover your own inner strength to work through those challenges.

I look forward to meet people of all cultural background, beliefs and ages on Tuesday and Thursdays.

I earned my Master degree in Clinical Psychology from Vrije Universiteit Brussel.  I am a member of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, let’s make it…… (great/worthwhile/count/awesome/wonderful) ....... it’s up to you.

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