Occupational therapist Teepa Snow, a leading occupational therapist who deals with patients suffering from dementia, works on stage with Pamela McGee during a conference and workshop on gerontology at the Brenau Downtown Center.

Teepa Snow Gives Brenau And Gainesville A Look At Dementia From ‘The Other Side’

Feb 7, 2015
Brenau Staff

With one out of five families today dealing with individuals suffering from dementia, caregivers need to explore and adopt different approaches for dealing with the problem, a leading expert told health care professional and other gathered for a special program Saturday at Brenau University’s School of Occupational Therapy.

Teepa Snow, founder of Positive Approaches to Care in Efland, North Carolina, predicted that within 15 years one in two families will deal with the condition.

Helana Anderjack-Garret, an applied gerontology student at Brenau, works with Charles Shadle during a conference on gerontology led by Teepa Snow.
Helana Anderjack-Garret, an applied gerontology student at Brenau, works with Dr. Charles Shadle from Brenau’s occupational therapy school during a conference on gerontology led by Teepa Snow.

“Caregivers need to learn how to deliver better quality care, and we also need to figure out how to care for caregivers as well as people who are living with the disease,” she said, drawing from her 33 years of experience. She encouraged members of the audience to see life from the side of a dementia patient as well as the side of a caregiver.

Snow addressed more than 250 faculty and students from Brenau occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, and gerontology programs, as well as caregivers, family members of dementia patients, assisted living facility workers and community members at the Dementia Care and Services Workshop at the Brenau University Downtown Center in Gainesville, Georgia. Saturday, Feb. 7.

“Out of 10 people who are living with dementia, fifty percent of them will have no awareness of their brain changes, and fifty percent of those suffering from dementia will be the first to notice that they are having issues,” she said. “The number-one fear for people over the age of 75 is suffering dementia. Seeing as how death is only number 17, people are more concerned with their quality of life than dying.”

Dr. Wendy Holmes, Brenau occupational therapy professor, said the goal of the workshop was to get many people from the community involved in the education process related to dementia.

“It really takes a community to care for people with dementia,” Holmes said. “It takes caring and skilled individuals.”

The effect of dementia on people has been a part of Snow’s life from an early age.

“When I was eight, my grandfather moved in, and at the time no one knew he was developing dementia; we thought he was just getting eccentric and weird after my grandma died,” she said. “My mom was not a very good caregiver, but I could get him to do things she couldn’t get him to do. So I’ve always been fascinated by brains, how they work and how they don’t work, and how people behave or don’t behave.”

After her undergraduate career at Duke University, Snow attended the University of North Carolina and became the first graduate of the School of Medicine’s OT program. She has an independent geriatric care practice, and has spoken at various conferences and clinics nationwide and in Canada.

“How we handle and treat people with dementia matters in quality of life, and how they live their life,” Snow said. “We are learning a lot about what we can do to make a difference that matters. We can’t fix or change the disease, but we can change how people live with it.”