Teepa is one of the leading educators on dementia and the care that accompanies it in North America. She’s an occupational therapist with 42 years of clinical practice. She’s currently working with a number of national and international projects and organizations.
We have spoken to Teepa previously about her experience. In this episode, we discuss more specific topics related to dementia and how to engage people with dementia.
The episode begins with Teepa sharing what she’d change in long-term care if she could and what the biggest change is that she’s seen in the industry over the years.
Teepa also discusses her ways of training staff and how she teaches them to engage residents.
Teepa talks about what science there is to back up her view that engaging people with quality presence can improve dementia symptoms.
She also delves into the topic of how accepting that a loved one has dementia affects the family.
Toward the end of the episode, Teepa shares what she’s doing differently in her role compared to two or three years ago.
If you could change one thing about long-term care, what would that be?
It would be to have the right number of people with the right skills doing the right things at the right time for the people that they’re supporting.
I know that in your mind, engaging people with quality presence improves their problem behaviors. Is there any science yet?
When I’m not getting something that I like, want, or need, my brain says, ‘Oh, I’m not getting something.’
Then my brain starts convincing me it’s risky that I’m not getting this. People are not paying attention. Nobody cares. Then it goes up a notch and fires more cortisol and adrenaline saying, ‘This is dangerous that you’re in this situation and nobody gives a crap, you need to get out of here.’
And it’s like, where did that come from? Well, it came from downtime. My ability to use the part of my brain that would have said, ‘You’ve got a little bit of downtime, why don’t you read a book, do a crossword puzzle, or meet a new person?’ isn’t working as well.
As my brain deteriorates, I don’t know what to do.
How does it affect the family when they have to accept that a loved one has dementia?
That’s one of the challenges: ‘I can’t accept that, that my mom has dementia.’ So, I have a couple of choices, I don’t come, I don’t visit, I don’t engage, so that way, I don’t experience her dementia. I come in, and I demand that my mother not have dementia.
So that classically will result in me dumping on staff or being angry with staff. ‘Why is my mother doing this? She never used words like that.
What are you people doing here?’
Then some people go: ‘This is really hard.’ But then they start acting as though mom is a child, rather than a fully grown, life-experienced adult who’s living with brain failure and has moments when she’s still present and able.
What are you doing today differently than two or three years ago?
We’ve created what we call champion courses, where you can come and spend a couple of hours, get some skills to go out there, and try them in short windows of time.
You can come back and give us some feedback. If you want to master those skills, we have a care support series online.
So, we’ve developed a lot of virtual stuff over the last couple of years. And that’s turned out to be much more universally sought after than we thought, because people can then pick their time, pick their situation.
Is there something new that you have discovered around dementia that you thought was well done?
It’s a blog post. It’s the ‘Big Bird’s Nest and The Five Zones of Function.’ Sue Paul wrote it.
She did it for foresight. It’s a really good way of looking at the idea of people building nests and nestling in and getting small and hunkering down versus opening out to five zones of function and realizing, ‘Oh, I’ve made my world so small.’
Learn all about dementia from an expert with 42 years of clinical practice, by tuning into the latest episode of LTC Heroes with Teepa Snow, Owner and Trainer at Positive Approach, LLC.
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