On January 30, Plymouth Harbor will be seeing snow for the first time since 2015, but not the cold, white kind that falls from the sky. Teepa Snow, a leading educator on dementia, will be on campus to teach residents, staff, board members, and community partners about dementia and her Positive Approach™ to Care.

As an occupational therapist with more than 30 years of clinical experience in the field of dementia, Teepa has become an advocate for those with dementia. She has made it her mission to help people better understand what it is like to live with the challenges that accompany the condition and to change the way people think about it.

In 2005, she founded her own company, the Positive Approach™ to Care, to teach people how to effectively and compassionately work with those living with neurocognitive degeneration. The Positive Approach™ to Care (PAC) uses the GEMS® States model for brain change, Teepa’s own creation that focuses on retained abilities instead of those that are lost. “Rewiring our own perceptions, attitudes, communication strategies, actions, and responses provides the shift that promotes change for others around us,” says Teepa on her website. Through the PAC and using the GEMS® States model, she now educates family and professional care providers across the world, but mainly in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

“Snow Day,” as we like to call her visit, will span from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., allowing Teepa time with all members of our Plymouth Harbor community so that we can all learn how to better care for those with dementia. Teepa will have specific sessions dedicated to each of our constituents, beginning with staff, caregivers, and area partners, then residents and Harbor Club members, and finally our board members.

This year, we have combined “Snow Day” with our annual Doyle Trust Lecture, and she will serve as the annual event’s keynote speaker. “We are very proud to bring Teepa here for the inaugural Doyle Trust Lecture,” says Becky Pazkowski, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy. “The Doyles were residents here and I’d imagine would be very pleased to know that care for all kinds of conditions, including dementia, has expanded over the years. With their legacy, we are able to offer an even broader educational opportunity.”

Teepa has visited Plymouth Harbor once before in March of 2015, before the Northwest Garden Building was built, for our first “Snow Day.” This time around, in addition to speaking to our residents and staff, Teepa will tour the Starr Memory Care Residence. We are excited to show her the supportive, state-of-the-art environment created for our residents thanks to the careful thought and ingenuity of the Plymouth Harbor team and THW, the architectural and design firm. We are so proud of our residence, and this will serve as a rare occasion for us to show Teepa how the design of the space and the program has been influenced by her own positive approach.

Brandi Burgess, Interim Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care, is a certified PAC trainer and has worked hard to incorporate Teepa’s approach into the way Plymouth Harbor cares for its residents. “The tenets of her program are that if caregivers understand what is happening physically and cognitively to those with dementia, we can identify the levels of progression and remaining strengths in the moment,” Brandi said.

More information about Teepa and the Positive Approach™ to Care and the GEMS® States model for brain change can be found online at TeepaSnow.com.

In 2014, our Board of Trustees and Leadership Council committed the time and financial resources to ensure that every single Plymouth Harbor staff member is given premier education on dementia care.

Our goal is to have staff who are knowledgeable about dementia, aware of the unique manifestations of dementia, who understand the impact of dementia on family and environmental dynamics, and who are adept at interacting with those with dementia. Using Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach™ to Care (PAC) philosophy, we ensure that this happens.

Teepa Snow is a leading educator on dementia. As an occupational therapist with more than 30 years of clinical experience in the field, Teepa has become an advocate for those with dementia. She has made it her mission to help people better understand what it is like to live with the challenges that accompany the condition and to change the way people think about it. In 2005, she founded her own company, the Positive Approach™ to Care, to teach people how to effectively and compassionately work with those living with neurocognitive degeneration. The Positive Approach™ to Care (PAC) uses the GEMS® States model for brain change, Teepa’s own creation that focuses on retained abilities instead of those that are lost. Through the PAC and using the GEMS® States model, she now educates family and professional care providers across the world, but mainly in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K

Four years ago, Brandi Burgess, Interim Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care, became a nationally certified trainer in PAC and developed an education plan for all levels of our staff with responsibilities in any of our licensed facilities.

“I really love when staff members from all departments share an interaction they had with a resident and say ‘I felt myself getting defensive and upset, and then I realized I was talking to a diamond,’ or an emerald, or a ruby,” Brandi said. “When they can take a step back, use what they learned in their PAC training, and approach the situation with a different mindset, they can better understand and care for our residents.”

Health Services staff receive annual training, which consists of education on normal aging, dementia, current research, and the progression of dementia through the GEMS® model. They also learn positive physical approaches and skills to use during care. Many different techniques are used to teach our staff these skills: video clips of Teepa demonstrating how to sort out what GEM someone is for visual learners; lectures and Q&A sessions for verbal learners; role playing and hands-on care practice for existential learners.

Our Care Partners in the Starr Memory Care Residence receive a three-week training, the most intensive of all our employees. Their PAC training is heavily interactive and hands-on, allowing them to practice the skills they will need and also put themselves in the shoes of someone with dementia. Even those who work outside of Health Services receive an introduction to PAC in their new employee orientations.

“If we can teach our staff how to purposefully change the environment and approach to our residents, then we can ensure they have the proper setting to shine at their best,” Brandi said.