Teepa Snow Approach to Dementia Care

October 3, 2023

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Teepa Snow is a dementia care and education specialist with an extensive occupational therapy background. Using her vast healthcare knowledge, Snow developed a positive approach to treating people with brain degeneration. Her approach aims to change the thinking around dementia and provide more effective treatment.

Snow’s method helps people step into the world of someone whose brain functions differently. With this greater understanding, medical staff, relatives and friends can foster better relationships with someone living with dementia. 

What Is the Teepa Snow Approach?

The Teepa Snow Approach is a method of treating neurocognitive degeneration. The approach addresses the stigma around dementia and offers positive solutions to caring for people with the condition. Snow’s positive approach to care (PAC) educates caregivers and organizations on treating dementia. It helps them understand the stages of brain degeneration and how to meet the needs of someone with dementia.

Elements of the Teepa Snow Approach

Snow’s strategy seeks to understand brain function effects and provide approaches that foster positive outcomes. It focuses on changing the way we communicate to match changing brain functions. For example, a person with dementia might process conversations differently and get triggered by various words and body language. With PAC, caregivers and family members would use language, gestures, body language, eye contact and hand signals that resonate with people who have dementia. 

Adjusting communication styles offers a positive and empathetic approach to helping someone with neurocognitive degeneration. When people alter their perspectives on dementia, they can better understand and connect with people living with the condition. Here are some more PAC benefits.

Improve Daily Interactions and Activities

People living with dementia see and experience the world differently. This difference can make daily interactions like having conservations, eating dinner and getting dressed challenging. They might get agitated easily, repeat words, speak to themselves or resist help with daily activities. 

The positive approach offers a better understanding of how people with brain degeneration view their environment. People practicing Teepa Snow’s method can change their actions and interactions by striving to see through the other person’s eyes, speaking and interacting with them in an engaging and empathetic manner. 

Enhance Comfort 

When people’s brains start degenerating, they might have difficulty recognizing family members, friends and surroundings. They may hear and see things that others do not, or they might lose the ability to accomplish daily functions like eating, drinking and getting dressed. These changes can be frightening for the individual with dementia and their loved ones. 

Individuals with dementia are confused by what’s happening to them and the fact that they have no control over it. This uncertainty can make them feel angry, sad or threatened, which can make them act out in various ways. The positive approach offers techniques to help people with dementia process situations better and feel more in control. Caregivers can use methods like Hand-Under-Hand® to initiate activity and make someone with dementia less agitated.

Enhance Connections and Relationships

PAC teaches caregivers positive ways to connect and engage with a person who has dementia. For example, instead of asking someone with dementia to complete a task like getting in the car, caregivers can first use positive language to connect with them and build rapport. This connection can make persons with brain degeneration more comfortable and willing to participate in tasks and conversations. 

GEMS® of the Positive Care Approach

Teepa Snow’s GEMS® explains the different brain states of people with dementia. It can help caregivers understand how dementia progresses and what effects and changes to expect at each stage. Each gem or brain state describes the way someone views the world:

  • Sapphire: The individual’s brain functions healthily. While it can take longer, he or she can still have understandable conversations. These individuals can learn new habits and describe their thoughts. They have a sense of self and can make their own decisions. They still have their memory but need alarms, calendars and notes to remember things. They can have symptoms like anxiety, stress and hearing issues, but they can display reasoning and logic. 
  • Diamond: People in this state need familiarity and routine. They still have cognitive abilities and can converse and engage in social settings. However, their personality and mood may change often and be difficult for others to understand. They may fixate on the past and overprotect their personal space and relationships. These individuals want to keep their environment as is and are not favorable to change. 
  • Emerald: Individuals may be less aware of changes and may miss out on what people say during conversations, even though they are listening. They can be rational but may also be less trusting of others. These individuals may not remember people, but they will remember how they made them feel. 
  • Amber: These individuals may require more caution. They may be less aware of people and more reactionary to how people interact with them. Their body can be sensitive, so they dislike discomfort. They may repeat tasks and move around a lot. They focus on their own needs and are less aware of others’ boundaries. These individuals may also resist tasks and interactions and may harm others physically or emotionally when they feel uncomfortable.
  • Ruby: While feeding and dressing themselves can be challenging, people at this stage can still move around. They may not be aware of their needs, so other individuals may need to keep track of them. These individuals need constant support and can be a danger to themselves, as they’ve lost their balance, vision and coordination. 
  • Pearl: People in this stage are near the end of their lives and want comfort, understanding and connection. While their brains may be losing control over their bodies, they can still recognize familiar voices. Caretakers should honor the individual’s previous wishes as they make medical decisions for them. Breathing, swallowing and other functions can be limited, and the individual wants someone to hold his or her hand through it all.

Meadow View Memory Care

Meadow View Memory Care uses positive approaches to dementia care so that individuals can live comfortably and independently. 

Space Recognition

Memory View prioritizes positive dementia care by creating a familiar setting where people can recognize their surroundings and feel safe. The interior design includes distinct door knobs and color palettes to help stimulate muscle memory and provide an intimate and comfortable environment. The design offers lots of natural light and space so people can move freely and be aware of and identify people and objects in the area. 

Social and Recreational Activities

Individuals can do the things they love and know in a safe environment. Meadow View offers numerous stimulating activities and amenities like restaurants, a chapel and a fitness room. For those who enjoy moving and staying active, there are sensory gardens to walk through and outdoor games to play. They can engage with other residents in the community and enjoy various social interactions and conversations. 

Live Positively at Garden Spot Village

The positive care approach helps foster greater connections and relationships for people with neurocognitive degeneration. With positive care, people with dementia can feel more comfortable, safe and familiar with their surroundings. They can also have better personal and social interactions. Garden Spot Village’s Meadow View Memory Care offers a dementia-positive approach to living. We honor the individual and create an environment for all to feel comfortable, recognized and secure. 

Contact Garden Spot Village if you or a loved one would benefit from memory care. 

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