Remembering Hope: Teepa Snow to Present on Dementia This September
By AJ Keith, Communications intern
Years of experience has taught renowned expert Teepa Snow one thing: clinical care for those with dementia is fundamentally flawed. Because medicine has yet to discover a cure for it, those who are suffering from or who are caring for others with dementia struggle to cope with it. Through her educational presentations, for which she is constantly booked around the nation, attendees are able to better understand dementia and give life meaning after the diagnosis. By raising awareness to the issue and giving tips to her audiences, Snow has found a “positive approach to care” that all people can benefit from.
While she is presently known as one of America’s leading educators on dementia and the CEO and founder of Positive Approach to Care, or PAC, in 2005, Snow began as a concerned family member stricken with strife. At the age of 8, her grandfather was suffering from dementia but, because little was known of the disease at the time, treatment and acceptance of his behavior was difficult. Moreover, her grief was made all the more poignant due to his eventual passing because the only words to describe his condition at the time were “senile” and “eccentric.”
Snow has spent most of her adult life dedicated to others with severe brain trauma and learning or developmental disabilities, but she found herself most capable when working with people who had dementia. However, with this discovery came a shocking truth: most people with dementia are either ignored or dismissed because caregivers are unaware of how they can help. “The care for people experiencing neurodegenerative change was not acceptable,” Snow says.
Feeling a strong call to action, Snow became a full-time assistant to a group with dementia or, as she calls it, “neurodegenerative change.” In 1978, she enrolled in the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill’s Occupational Therapy Master’s Program. Using the knowledge that she gained from the two-year program, Snow has since changed the entire culture of dementia care through her presentations and 40 years of experience as an occupational therapist. Though she has been all over the world to places such as the United Kingdom and Wales to present in addition to the United States, her message has remained the same: “We have to make a choice to give up what was to celebrate what is,” Snow says. “The only way to do that is to let go of what you can’t and to acknowledge what’s here.”
The primary focus of her work is to ensure that all people living with brain changes and their caretakers are aptly prepared and trained to handle the unpredictability of dementia. This means that patients, who are at times not treated with the same human dignity by clinicians or caregivers, receive a specific approach to their care. In light of this, Snow created the GEMS States model, which, according to her website, “likens people to gemstones and focuses on supporting and fostering retained abilities by providing environmental and interaction cues. This allows us to match the needs, and provide necessary support, so that people can live well from the first symptoms until the end of life.”
The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati came to mind when Snow was considering an audience for one of her presentations because of their selfless concern for others. Snow has met members of the Congregation while offering her service to others, which made her admire the Community. As it is Community based on the progression and care for others, the Sisters of Charity was the ideal audience for one of her presentations. In their first concentrated effort together, Positive Approach to Care and the Sisters of Charity have collaborated to make Snow’s presentation at Mount St. Joseph University, or MSJU, on Sept. 11, 2019, possible. “I know the Sisters of Charity love all people deeply and they want to do the right thing,” Snow says. “This is another piece of the puzzle for them: to learn how to care for their Community and give them the tools to do the right thing.”
Sponsored by Bayley, MSJU and the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Snow will be giving two presentations on Sept. 11, 2019, in MSJU’s auditorium: the first, entitled, “Challenging Behaviors in Dementia Care,” will take place from 1-4 p.m.; the second, entitled, “Creative and Practical Tips for Getting Through the Day,” will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. in the same location. The presentations are open to the public and there is no admittance fee.
In addition, caregivers will be available for family members and loved ones suffering from dementia while the caregivers are attending the evening presentation. Though this is free as well, participants must call 513-347-4040 ahead of time to register for this service. “We know that the disease is progressive and it can be difficult for both parties to leave that person alone,” Snow says. “Caregivers give up their opportunity to learn each day, but this [service] gives people the chance to learn.”
Terrifying statistics exist about dementia which, according to Snow, state that 40-50 percent of people over 85 have dementia. Snow encourages all people to attend and not to avoid the topic because it denies the opportunity for treatment and growth for people with neurodegenerative change or their caregivers. For more information, visit www.teepasnow.com for tips on how to care for those suffering from dementia. “Until there’s a cure, there’s care,” Snow says.