(623) 934-2722 shudson@aginginaz.com

Ellen found herself gazing, more and more, at a photo on the wall across the dining room. It showed her father, Arthur, a man known for his booming laugh and infectious enthusiasm. In the photo, he had Ellen and her sister scooped up in a big, warm bearhug.

He was staring at her now, across the dinner table, but this man had a vacant expression and seemed like a different person altogether from the man in the photograph. Arthur, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago, was a shadow of his former self. The vibrant man who’d taught her to fish and fix bikes was now a puzzle Ellen didn’t know how to solve.

Frustration gnawed at her. Arthur’s outbursts were becoming more frequent as his confusion deepened. The doctors offered medication and a grim prognosis, but little in the way of practical advice. Ellen felt adrift, lost in a sea of uncertainty. That’s when I met her. I was waiting with another client to see the same doctor when I saw her struggling to make a follow-up appointment and keep Arthur close. I recognized the exhaustion in her eyes and felt immediate empathy for her.

My client was in the early stages, so I mentioned to her that I was going to go over to meet the gentleman. I stood up and walked over to Arthur. I told him my name and Ellen’s watchful eyes shot a look at me. I told her I could visit with him while she made the appointment. She finished up and thanked me for my kindness. She said that people often shy away. I admitted that it was not a passing kindness but that I help families manage the challenges of aging care, so I understood the type of help she needed. Her eyes lit up and she said, “Oh, really?” I explained briefly what I do as a care manager.

She told me she had been completely at a loss much of the time and received conflicting advice from family, friends, and neighbors. I suggested that she pick up the book by Teepa Snow called the Dementia Caregiver Guide. I gave her my card. She called me a week later. When I visited her home a few weeks later, I saw Snow’s book on a side table. It looked as if she had almost finished it.

Teepa Snow’s GEMS model – Getting to Know, Engagement, Meaning, and Support – became a lifeline for Ellen. Reading about Arthur’s emotional state, not just his cognitive decline, was a revelation. Ellen realized his angry outbursts weren’t defiance, but frustration at a world he didn’t understand or recognize.

Armed with the book’s techniques, Ellen started small. Instead of arguing during mealtimes, she offered finger foods Arthur used to enjoy – comfort food that sparked forgotten memories. She replaced harsh corrections with gentle redirection, using music from his youth to soothe him during moments of anxiety.

The change wasn’t immediate, but it did come. He’d hum along to old tunes, his face relaxing into a smile. He couldn’t hold a conversation, but during their walks in the park, Ellen could feel a connection, a shared understanding.

There were still bad days, tears shed in frustration. But the guide offered a roadmap; a way to navigate the complexities of this disease with compassion and respect. More importantly, it reminded Ellen that her father was still there, beneath the fog of dementia. He might not remember who she was, but she remembered him, the love they shared, a constant beacon in the darkness.

The book became Ellen’s constant companion, a source of strength and solace. It wasn’t a cure, but it was a way forward, a path towards a new kind of relationship with her father, a journey filled with love, acceptance, and the enduring power of human connection.

Working with Ellen and Arthur as a care manager, I was able to provide her with options for help with care that let Arthur remain home and gave Ellen the breaks that she needed. The balance improved their relationship and gave them a chance to connect as family. If you need this type of help, we are here, waiting to provide it!

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Teepa Snow’s Dementia Caregiver Guide equips caregivers with the knowledge and tools to navigate the complexities of caring for someone with dementia. It emphasizes understanding the disease’s progression while providing practical strategies for positive interactions and effective care.

The guide moves beyond simply listing symptoms, instead focusing on the person’s remaining abilities. It highlights the importance of recognizing these strengths to create a care plan that fosters continued connection.

To navigate the various stages of dementia, Snow introduces the GEMS Brain Change Model. This model categorizes different levels of ability (“gems” like sapphires and emeralds) and tailors care approaches accordingly.
Further, the book outlines Snow’s Positive Approach to Care philosophy, emphasizing empathy, compassion, and person-centered care. It provides practical tips for daily tasks like bathing and communication, along with strategies for managing challenging behaviors and creating a safe, supportive environment.

Dementia Caregiver Guide is a comprehensive and compassionate resource. It empowers caregivers with a positive, person-centered approach, ultimately promoting dignity and enhancing the quality of life for both the caregiver and the individual with dementia.