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Taking a ‘Positive Approach’ to Our Residents With Dementia

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Taking a ‘Positive Approach’ to Our Residents With Dementia

At The Gardens at Barry Road – and in all of our Bethesda Senior Living Communities – we’re always looking for new ways to improve how we care for our residents. For the past year, we have been implementing Teepa Snow’s Positive ApproachTM in our memory care community, and we’re seeing great results with our residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Take Nancy, for example. Nancy has been in our memory care community for three years. She spent her career as a schoolteacher, and in her retirement her grandchildren have been her love and joy. But over the past few years, her dementia has progressed to where she needs the specialized care. She can still communicate, but her field of vision has narrowed and her responses are often limited.

Nancy still has a lot of love in her heart, but it takes a special kind of care to reach her. That’s where Teepa Snow’s Positive ApproachTM comes in.

“This approach is really about the mindset of how we care for our residents who are living with dementia,” said Sara Meinking, Memory Care Director for the Gardens at Barry Road. “It’s about understanding how best to reach them.”

The Positive ApproachTM Difference

As an example, of Teepa Snow’s approach, Meinking explained how the visual field changes as the stages of dementia progress. “In the early stage, it’s like wearing a scuba mask,” she said. “Then it becomes like looking through binoculars, and then to a monocle.”

As residents’ visual fields narrow, it’s important to approach them from the front so as not to startle them. “Using Teepa Snow’s training, I’ll come up and say, ‘Hi, Nancy,’ and raise my hand into her visual field. She’ll see me asking permission to move into her personal space, and she can then let me know it’s OK to move to the next process, whether that’s guiding her down the hall, brushing her teeth or giving her medication.”

This approach allows the Gardens at Barry Road team to provide the best care because it allows residents to participate. “When we care for Nancy and our other residents, we want to preserve their independence,” Meinking said. “By communicating with her up front, she’s able to give us permission to care for her, which preserves her freedom and autonomy.”

Resident-Centered Care

The Teepa Snow approach is all part of our commitment to providing resident-centered care. “What’s nice about this approach is that it must be geared individually toward each resident,” Meinking said. “You have to know you resident to get the best outcome.”

She compared it to detective work. Once you have the right environment for care, you observe each resident and adapt the care to what each person needs. Nancy’s family has said they appreciate the Gardens at Barry Road team and the ongoing work our community has done to give Nancy the care that’s right for her at every stage.

For the past year, Meinking and other Bethesda Senior Living Memory Care Directors have been going through Teepa Snow training, and have been implementing the Positive ApproachTM philosophy and processes throughout Bethesda’s memory care communities.

Meinking said there’s been such a positive response—from residents, from families and from our teams. “Some of our communities don’t have memory care units, but the Teepa Snow training is beneficial for assisted living communities as well, because they often have residents in the early stages of dementia. The approach really benefits everyone.”