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Dementia: Many Types but Only One Response - POSITIVE!!

Updated: Apr 30

We are all First Responders in an emergency!

In that moment, whatever the crisis – it is an emergency for both the person living with dementia and the Caregiver!  That’s why it’s so hard to know what to do!  Everyone is in “fight” or “flight” mode!  Responses come fast and furious – not always the best way to make decisions or to handle an emergency situation.    Skill building and techniques need to be learned beforehand so the Caregiver is ready to handle difficult situations when they occur.  It is imperative to give Caregivers a “bag of tricks” to pull from when they need to try something different to defuse an escalating catastrophe.


As is true of many things, people have no idea what “dementia” is until it hits close to home.  Some of those people are now leading experts in the field of dementia care excellence today.  Peter Ross established Senior Helpers - “Care and Comfort at a Moment’s Notice” - after he discovered there were no Caregivers adequately trained to care for his mother.  Senior Helpers worked with Teepa Snow OT, Dementia Expert and Educator, to create the Senior GEMS Caregiver Training – unique to the industry then and still today!!  In 2005, Teepa Snow went on to establish her Brain Change Model with language that refer to the levels of dementia as “living GEMS.”  Teepa established Positive Approach to Care (PAC), Hand-under-hand and Positive Physical Approach that revolutionized Dementia Care.  Today in 2023, Teepa travels the world sharing the good news: “There is no cure but there’s Care.”


Although Senior Helpers has been training their Caregivers and Teepa Snow has Certification Programs / Training for corporations, a standard for Caregiver training has not yet been established.   There is no common language to describe the levels of dementia.   Teepa Snow provides strategies to use and strategies to avoid at all six levels of dementia; however, there is no requirement to teach a standard language for dementia in school for therapists, healthcare providers or Emergency Responders.  Some healthcare providers still use the Global Deterioration Scale that rates levels of dementia from 1 to 7 looking at all the abilities lost to dementia with no treatment plan or guide for Caregivers to use.  Other healthcare providers use the Allen Cognitive Scale that rates the levels of dementia from 6 to 1 looking at all the abilities that still remain; however, the treatment plan is for the therapists to use during rehab. 


When Caregivers and therapists receive dementia training, there is no common language from one training to the next.  Some refer to the levels of dementia by numbers; others refer to the levels of dementia as “Beginning, Middle, End” or “Mild, Moderate, Severe” without strategies to use at the different levels or how to change strategies when the person living with dementia has a change in status or moves from one level to the next – in a day, in an hour.  People living with dementia do not stay at one level; their abilities change with the environment and with the responses they receive.  There is no standard for new employee orientation that includes a “positive physical approach” or “hand-under-hand technique” that reduces risks for falls, malnutrition, dehydration and social isolation. 


People living with dementia are wrongfully “Baker Acted” because families and Caregivers do not understand that dementia is brain loss.  The Baker Act was created to help people with Mental Health Disorders get a diagnosis and treatment.  When you have a diagnosis of dementia, you do not need another diagnosis.  There is no medication to cure dementia.  The treatment needed is “kindness” and “understanding.” 


When memory and reasoning are impaired people become frightened when approached abruptly or touched unexpectedly.  Self-defense is perceived as “aggression” and the person “a harm to himself or others.”


It has been 20 years since Teepa Snow revolutionized healthcare for people living with dementia.

It’s not enough to mandate “dementia training” without:

1. identifying, “What makes one training superior to another?”

2. mandate the superior training before employment

3. mandate continue superior education every year to stay employed including skill building and coaching.


Healthcare professionals are required to continue their education in “dementia training,” but not all dementia education provides the Care partner with the tools required during each day caring for people living with dementia.

Care partners need a common language.  We all do!  When we don’t speak the same language we cannot talk to each other!  When there is dementia involved, that is no time to stop talking!  That is why Dementia Family Pathways created 6-Steps to Becomes Dementia Friendly – inspired by Teepa Snow and her Positive Approach to Care:


20 years ago Senior Helpers partnered with Teepa to create their Caregiver training program and firmly believe…


“Each person is precious and unique and require the right kind of care to shine.”

Teepa Snow



NOTE: This article was published in Go Christian Magazine Fall 2023 issue.

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