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.