Recently, we hosted renowned dementia care expert and founder of Positive Approach to Care® (PAC) Teepa Snow on our podcast This Day & Age. She shared many important insights to help listeners better understand how to approach those with dementia or care for loved ones living with the disease. Continue reading for a recap of some of the most pertinent points!
What is dementia?
Dementia is more than memory loss. It is a collection of symptoms caused by the misfiring, deterioration, or death of brain cells that ultimately leads to brain change. Dementia is a complex and varied disease. In total, there are over 120 different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's, and each form can have different progressions and affect individuals differently.
What is a Positive Approach to Care?
Focused on changing the culture around dementia care, a Positive Approach to Care® offers strategies and skills to help enhance the lives of those living with brain change. Authenticity, compassion, curiosity, and empowerment are some of the driving tenets behind this approach. As a PAC-designated organization, we utilize their teachings and techniques while caring for persons living with dementia here at Holland Home.
How can you help loved ones living with dementia?
It can be extremely difficult to see a loved one going through the changes that dementia brings, but the most important thing to remember is to try and be empathetic and compassionate. The agitation, confusion, and frustration they are displaying is the result of a changing brain that they have no control over. When interacting with them, always try to come from a place of understanding and awareness. Don’t attack or harass! Below are ways you can handle some common scenarios:
Not Being Recognized
If you walk into a room and your loved one doesn’t recognize you, don’t try to shake the memory out of them. Saying, “it’s me, it’s me, don’t you remember me?” is not going to help. Instead, try bringing up a positive memory that the two of you share without mentioning names. For example, if you and your loved one spent summers together at the family lake house, you could say, “Have you ever been to Lake ABC? I used to spend my summers there as a kid.” If they make a connection in any way, that’s a win! If they don’t, don’t push it, and try not to overcorrect them if they make a mistake.  
Constant Questions
It can be frustrating to be asked the same questions over and over again. Rather than growing angry and saying, “I’ve already told you!”interject and introduce a new topic. For example, if your loved one is asking yet again what time you are leaving, say, “Hey, Mom, I wanted to show you this new thing I got.” Distract them and take their mind somewhere else, away from the question that is on their mind.
Someone in Denial
So your loved one has just been diagnosed with dementia. Although, they don’t feel like this is correct. As always, don’t attack. Ask them what they think is going on and suggest treating those issues. Do they feel their brain is just overloaded? Ok, let’s work on stress management. Are they not getting quality sleep? Well, then, let’s try to work on that. 50% of people with dementia have damage to the front of the brain, the area that helps with self-awareness. So, if they are having trouble dealing with the new diagnosis, is it denial, or is it actually brain damage manifesting as denial?

"Just like gems, each person is precious, valuable, and unique, and given the right setting and care, can shine.”

- Teepa Snow

The Progression of Dementia
Teepa Snow and Positive Approach to Care have developed the GEMS model to show the progression of brain change in those living with dementia. While the progression, pattern, and changes may look very different for each type of dementia, the evolution is somewhat predictable. Understanding the abilities at each step of this journey can make a world of difference while interacting and caring for your loved ones. To learn more about the GEMS model, visit Teepa’s website here.
Holland Home Dementia Care
Holland Home is the first and only PAC-designated organization in Michigan. This gives us a special distinction in not only the methods that we use but our approach as a whole. We believe that in order to serve persons living with dementia best, we need to create a compassionate and empathetic environment. That’s why each and every one of our employees go through the Dementia Journey training, which uses virtual reality to mimic the confusion that comes with dementia. Using sound, vision, and sensory impairments, team members are asked to manage the daily tasks that dementia patients go through in their everyday lives. This unique approach gives the caregiver a higher level of insight into the disease, empathy for what the patient is facing, and greater compassion in their care.
To learn more about our Memory Care services, click here.
Further Your Understanding
Understanding what your loved one is going through may never be fully possible. But, by arming yourself with information, you can gain greater empathy and understanding. This will help you better care for them as they progress through the different stages of their disease. To listen to the full episode of the podcast, visit To learn more about a Positive Approach to Care®, visit