The Human Nature of Care with Teepa Snow

Why does it seem that in the world of caring for persons living with dementia, we assume this involves total care on our part and complete incompetence on the part of the person living with dementia? It’s a stereotype that needs shattered and I can think of no better person to help demonstrate this in the realm of health care education than Teepa Snow, one of the world’s leading educators on dementia and the care that accompanies it. Teepa established the Positive Approach® to Care (PAC), a company that provides dementia care training, services, and products to enhance awareness and increase dementia care skills.

It’s practical approach to care. It’s about how you do things differently so it’s a better interaction.

Being a part of someone’s life who is living with dementia is hard. It completely changes the relationship on both sides and introduces challenges to the very basics of everyday living. Yet, sometimes we forget that the act of caring is an integral part of who we are as human beings and the person living with dementia also has a part in this. For someone needing assistance in daily care and life, care should look more like a partnership. It should be an invitation to participate not an offer to be given – no matter what health concerns or illness the person is living with. Teepa wisely shares with us how important it is so build and foster a relationship with your care recipient before you ever attempt to complete care tasks or activities of daily living. If you’re interested in a healthier, happier relationship with someone living with dementia, check out the below tips.

ACTION STEPS:

  1. Build the relationship first. Above all else. When we talk about building better healthcare models in dementia, the first step we should be teaching in education is to seek permission. We have to change the approach from tasks to be done to as Teepa says, “a relationship to be respected and maintained”. Think about that for a minute, and realize that that approach is really just about human dignity. We’d all want someone to ask permission to help us before they just jump in and do things for us. Its about Building and maintaining relationships – if you put that at the front end of any education in health care tasks, it becomes a habit of how we initiate the task, ultimately leading to better outcomes for both. You cannot provide true dementia friendly care until you build a relationship first.
  2. Don’t get upset with the message. We must acknowledge the message we are hearing as we are involved in care with persons living with dementia. We often put the blame on them for “reacting or behaving inappropriately” – instead of realizing that their brain is simply giving them different information than ours. We can’t get upset with the message they’re delivering, whether verbally or by physical action. They’re simply trying to communicate what their brain is telling them.
  3. Be curious about a level of awareness. As a care partner – the first thing you have to figure out is “does your loved one have awareness of something you think they need, or not? For instance, do you think they are aware of the physical sensations of being hungry or needing to use the bathroom? And if so, how you present the opportunity to meet those needs might sound a little different. It’s the difference between, “Hey Mom, can I help you to the bathroom?” instead of “Hey Mom, why don’t you go to the bathroom?”.  It’s a tiny shift in language that makes a huge difference in how the person with dementia feels respected and valued in their perceived ability to make a decision (with your gentle cueing). It’s about being curious – or prompting curiosity –  instead of telling someone what they need.
  4. It takes a team. We can all promote more culture change in the world of living with dementia, but we certainly can’t do it alone. And on that note, we sincerely hope you’ll join our Life With Dementia advocacy team by sharing any podcast messages that resonate with you.  Comment on our social media page and blast them out on your own. Help get more people curious to learn more or do more to better a life, with dementia. 

Join us next time on Life With Dementia, the solution-driven podcast sharing resources and support for living well with dementia.

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Show Notes:

Life with Dementia podcast is a proud member of The Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB.

Want to know more about Teepa Snow? Follow her on Twitter, Facebook,  or Youtube

Featured image by by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

Podcast episode music by Blue Dot Sessions “OneEightFour”