Aware Senior Care Blog

positive approach to care

Positive Approach to Care: Becoming a Certified Dementia Trainer in 3 Inspiring Days

I have always enjoyed learning. I am truly passionate about sharing knowledge with those who are interested. Tim and I wanted to learn more about dementia care in order to train our staff to be better dementia caregivers. We decided to become PAC (Positive Approach to Care) certified and through Teepa Snow’s dementia training program.

By Gina Murray, Director and Co-Founder of Aware Senior Care

Learning about Teepa Snow and the Positive Approach to Care

The first training DVDs we bought just after we decided to open our home care agency in 2014 was “Accepting the Challenge” with Teepa Snow and Melanie Bunn.

At the time, they were becoming well known for teaching family and professional caregivers, ways to provide care to those afflicted with dementia. We have used those DVDs in our initial orientation for our caregivers since that time.

It’s interesting to see how new caregivers react to the part of the DVD where a picture on the screen shows the hole in a brain where memory is stored. Teepa explains this is the reason a person with Alzheimer’s disease may not have immediate recall.

Being able to ‘see’ the reason a person may ask the same question over and over and over can help ease the frustration that caregivers may feel when in that challenging situation. The DVDs also give the caregivers ‘tools’ they can use to improve their communication and interactions with people living with dementia.

The DVDs have been helpful in our caregiver training, but Tim and I wanted to learn more.

Teepa Snow Training -- January 2020

positive approach to care training

Months ago, we signed up to attend a three day training session in Virginia and we received our prerequisite videos and tests.

As a nurse, I have attended conferences and in-service training on dementia for years. I was truly amazed at how different Teepa’s approach is.

It starts with understanding the four truths about dementia:

The Four Truths of Dementia

  • Two parts of the brain are dying
  • One part may be memory but not necessarily
  • There is no cure or medication to stop it
  • It is always changing and it is terminal

Well, life is terminal so that wasn’t a surprise. Teepa’s approach is to teach people how to help a person living with dementia through teaching a different approach and giving advice on how to handle situations.

What is the Positive Approach to Care (PAC)?

positive approach to care trainer

On our first day of the conference, we learned about PAC. While it was taught as a method to approach those with dementia, I believe it should be applied to nearly all situations when you are meeting folks for the first time. Folks with dementia, each time you approach them, may believe it’s for the first time.

  1. Visual -- Most of our sensory input comes from what we see. First part of PAC is always come from within visual range. Approach slowly, allow the person time to process your approach.
  2. Verbal – Connect verbally, get their attention. (People with dementia may have limited visual range- actually that may be true for many seniors too)
  3. Touch – Only after connecting visually and then verbally should a person offer their hand. Teepa uses the HUH method (hand under hand): The caregiver’s hand is under the hand of their client. It gives the client the feeling of control. A gentle squeeze can give a sense of comfort.
  4. Smell -- Allow the person to smell the food you are helping them eat in order to entice them.
  5. Taste -- Self-explanatory.
Watch this video on YouTube.

Watch this video on YouTube.

Watch this video on YouTube.

At the end of our first day, Tim and I were certified Level One PAC Trainers. It was a great day! We learned tons of practical information, all presented in a way that was easy to understand. In the next two days, we would learn why we were able to process so much information.

The Importance of Learning in Dementia Training

My biggest ‘take away’ was “It’s not how much information you taught, it’s how much information the audience learned.” That was my Ah-hah! moment.

How many times had I given a presentation and thought, “I got through all the material in the allotted time?” I realized that was not the point.

Did the audience learn anything? Learn information that they can use? Did they have any Ah-hah! moments?

Over the next two days, we discovered different learning styles, the ways people process information, and how the different personality traits can affect learning (and teaching!)

We made videos of each other performing PAC and HUH techniques with each other and then reviewed them with our mentors. The reviews were honest and always focused on “what went well.” Only then did we discuss “things we would do differently” next time.

Next Steps

It was an inspiring three days. To be in a room filled with very different yet like-minded people, all dedicated to helping those living with dementia and the ones who love them.

Tim and I just completed our first mentor calls following the training. We are blessed to have Melanie Bunn as our mentor. We reviewed what we had learned, set our goals and planned for our next call. Our homework is to plan our first training session: Normal aging vs Not Normal Aging

We will show how we will incorporate the various learning styles as well as PAC and HUH techniques.

I feel blessed to be on this journey with Tim. We will plan to do some training sessions as a team, and other ones separately. The goal is to be Certified Dementia Trainers by the end of March!

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