After the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Dementia life may seem full of heavy dark pressure, but Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care plans to remind people that that is exactly what it takes to produce jewels in this world.
Introducing Teepa Snow’s Senior Helpers Senior Gems program Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care Medical Social Worker Kelly Ingram was exuberant.
“I just love it,” declared Ingram. “Teepa did such a good job of breaking down the different stages and reminding us how truly precious our people are at each level of their experience.”
With over 30 years of experience as a Dementia expert Snow used the Allen Cognitive Disabilities Model to create the Senior Gems program To help caregiver understand the process better as well as to remember to value their loved one in spite of the difficulties presented by living with Alzheimer’s Dementia.
“We wanted to create a system that looks at not only what they are losing, but what they are able to do, what their interests are going to be and most importantly,” stressed Snow in her instructional video, “ how can we help and what’s the environmental support they’re going to need for success.”
“Brain failure doesn’t happen overnight,” declared Snow. “This is a disease that spans 5-18 years or longer. There’s a lot that can happen and a lot of changes that are going to take place.”
Ingram expects the Senior Gems to help caregivers be better prepared for the different stages and help families better enjoy their time with their loved ones.
“I can’t wait for people to learn this,” stated Ingram who pointed out a chart outlining basic characterizes of each gem, how to be prepared for the needs of the patient, and what special activities might be appropriate for each stage.
Snow described the Sapphires as “true blue. You brain is aging but it’s not changing in an abnormal or weird way.”
Although these folks may seem normal they are not as quick to make decisions and cannot learn new information as well as they once did and although their memory may be slipping it does return with the right visual clue.
“The first sign that something’s not normal,” claimed Snow, “is the Diamond. They’re still looking clear but something seems to be going on. They are very rigid. They can’t be flexible.”
There is a reason for that as they beginning to feel out of control inside their own minds and crave familiarity.
“Diamonds are sharp and they can cut you,” warned Snow advising that though a person in this stage may not remember people do remember if they like them or not.
They also have many different facets to them leading each person to see them differently. “So you’re spending a tremendous amount of time arguing whether or not there’s something going on with them,” described Snow. “Chances are there is.”
The Emerald green is the go of a stoplight looking for ways to help others with familiar tasks even as they begin to need more help themselves although they do not recognize it.
“Things are changing, there’s no denying we’ve got Dementia on board now,” stated Snow. “They’re going back in time and they’re getting very vague.”
This is the stage where people get more confused later in the day and begin to momentarily become lost in time.
“The truth about Emeralds,” confessed Snow, “the flaw’s inside. They don’t know that,” as they skip steps doing regular tasks and lose their sense of the moment.
“Of all minerals Amber is the softest,” claimed Snow describing the next stage. “Of all the gems it’s the most changeable. It’s in the moment.”
“This person is really caught in the moment. In this stage of the disease it’s all about sensation and exploration,” stated Snow.
“When you have an Amber it can just drive you over the top. Safety is a huge problem for Ambers because they have no safety awareness. Sensory tolerance is going down and yet sensory need might be high. Amber is tough especially when you’re feeling stressed.”
Like the traffic light the red Ruby is where a patient stops.
“What stops is Fine Motor control,” stated Snow including eyes and mouth as well as hands and feet. They spend a lot of time sleeping or walking because they can no longer engage in tabletop activities, however they enjoy the familiarity of music and large motion.
“Caring for Rubies is hard work because you’re having to do a lot of physical assisting now but they have to accept that assistance or you’re going to end up with a big struggle.”
The final gem is a Pearl that may not look beautiful on the outside but still holds a treasure inside.
“At this point in the disease the sensory strip and the motor strip are dying,” explained Snow leading the muscles to contract and nutrition to be a problem.
“What we want to recognize is inside that shell is that amazing gem but they are trapped inside that shell and they’re not going to come out very often. Know that in moments the shell may come open and the person may very well still be there and you may have these amazing moments of connection.”
It is those moments of connection that makes it so important for caregivers to be contentious not only of their patients, but of themselves.
“As a caregiver you will need support,” cautioned Snow. “You will be making changes. Although this is hard it is possible. It’s not for everybody to do hands on care but you’re still going to need to be involved.”
“You cannot just keep going and going and going without suffering the consequences,” Ingram has said to volunteers and coworkers alike which is part of why she advocates the Senior Gem program.
“When you have resources like this and you can be better prepared it’s just easier on you, the caregiver,” observed Ingram.
More information about Teepa Snow and the Senior Gems program can be found at www.seniorhelpers.com.
To talk to Medical Social Worker Kelly Ingram services available at Mountain Valley Hospice email email@example.com.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.