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Advice from Teepa Snow:
“Building and sustaining relationships during social distancing is critical.”

ActivCare Living and Alzheimer’s San Diego were privileged to kick off the month of May with an online event featuring renowned dementia educator, Teepa Snow.

During this special event, Teepa covered an array of topics, including:

  • How to approach the topic of wearing masks for personal protection.
  • Ways to make video calls more meaningful.
  • How to help your loved one to get moving and the benefits of movement.

Overcoming Obstacles to Personal Protection Masks
Teepa suggested caregivers approach the idea of masks in a more conversational manner. Speak with your loved one about how they may feel when they see a mask on a person, or how they may feel about wearing one themselves. Teepa noted that using empathy to connect with your loved one may help comfort them. For example, acknowledging the different practice, “‘Yeah, it does look funny, doesn’t it?” Because it can be difficult to understand someone talking through a face mask, offer alternative solutions, such as writing a note instead.
When it comes time to put the masks on, Teepa suggests to slowly introduce the idea – alternating taking it on and off to demonstrate how you might look and sound very different while wearing it. While it might be difficult to get your loved one to ultimately wear the mask, this can at least ease their anxiety when seeing you or others wearing them in public places.

Taking Advantage of a Narrowed Field of Vision
With these tips, Teepa was able to make virtual visits via video chats interesting, engaging and fun!

  1. Try sorting familiar objects via video.
  2. Use familiar photos to trigger conversations.
  3. Take them on a tour of your environment. Engage them by staging photos (or use existing items in your surroundings) to initiate a scavenger hunt of landmarks or perhaps a color themed hunt.

Instead of quizzing your loved one about recent events, ask about a favored memory and allow them to share their story with you. “Tell me about the time when…” Most importantly, the best way to have a successful conversation with your loved one is to be present.

Objects in Motion will Stay in Motion
Finding ways to get to your loved one moving can help ward off restlessness, wandering and sundowning behaviors. According to Teepa, “The hippocampus is designed to learn and remember to go from here to there and then come back.” She said, “When someone with dementia says they’re not okay in one space, that means they feel at risk or unsafe.” As a caregiver, we need to acknowledge their feelings and do our best to reassure them.
One strategy offered was to take your loved one by the had and lead them through doorways. Treating each room as a new place to go can help your loved one’s mind to calm itself while keeping them in a safe environment. (Tip: This can also be done while on a video call to help your loved one’s mind explore new locations.)
Another way to get moving is with music, rhythm or instruments. Making sure they can see your movements, you can tap your foot or clap your hands – encouraging your loved one to join in. The same can be done with drumming or dancing, based on your loved one’s mobility. Start slowly, at their height, and encourage them to follow you as you stand. Turn this exercise into a dance to promote mobility.

For more great pointers, you can watch Teepa’s entire presentation here: Talk with Teepa

You can access Teepa’s PowerPoint slides here: Slide Presentation

Should you have questions or need additional information, please contact an ActivCare community near you or call 888-636-5677 for a directory.

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