Teepa Snow’s GEMS® Brain Change Model

The Positive Approach® to Care for Individuals with Dementia

Teepa Snow is one of America’s leading educators on dementia, with over 30 years as a registered occupational therapist. She’s worked as an OT director in a head injury facility, as a clinical specialist in geriatrics for a Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, and as a therapist and restorative care coordinator for long-term care facilities. Her extensive experience and knowledge has led her to be an advocate for individuals living with dementia and their families, as well as to provide training for healthcare professionals treating dementia sufferers.

In 2005, Ms. Snow founded her company Positive Approach, LLC to offer education and dementia training to both families and healthcare professionals around the world, making it her mission to help them understand how it feels to be living with dementia and its related challenges. Her approach provides person-centered care based on the unique and complex needs of each individual throughout all the stages of dementia.

The GEMS® Brain Change Model – How it Works

Assessing what stage a loved one with dementia is in is key to providing the best quality of care. This is what is called dementia staging; understanding what our loved one’s current abilities are allows us to better nurture them and provide for a more fulfilling life.

In Teepa Snow’s GEMS® Model, the focus is on seeing the individual as unique and capable, rather than on the memory loss. Using gemstones as reference for each stage of dementia helps define the characteristics of the individual and the care needed to ensure the best quality of life.

The GEMS® characteristics Teepa Snow has defined are:

Sapphire – True Blue – Optimal Cognition, Healthy Brain: These individuals are facing some of the common issues that come along with aging, like sometimes finding it difficult to find the right words to describe how they’re feeling, taking a little more time to learn new things, and needing occasional reminders from time to time about appointments or plans.

Diamond – Clear and Sharp – Routines and Rituals Rule: Cognition is still sharp, but distress can make these individuals seem threatened and rigid. They may get possessive about relationships or belongings, which can cause conflicts with loved ones. However, they’re still able to engage socially. They thrive on routine and like to keep life moving as it always has, even when it becomes difficult for others to maintain.

Emerald – Green and On the Go With a purpose – Naturally Flawed: Focusing solely on the moment at hand, these individuals might not be aware of their safety concerns or their changing abilities. They have a hard time following conversations and remembering details, but they do still recognize body language and tone of voice. They may start hiding belongings as they become more suspicious of others, and have trouble with time and place, reverting back to past instances in their lives. This is when a positive care approach is important, as well as environment modifications.

Amber – Caught in a Moment of Time – Caution Required: Reactions are based on the senses; these individuals may no longer recognize cherished friends and family, but can react based on how people smell, look, sound and move. They no longer realize when they may be in danger, so safeguarding the environment is of utmost importance. Changes in the nervous system cause discomfort in the extremities and mouths, making eating, bathing and dressing difficult.

Ruby – Deep and Strong in Color – Others Stop Seeing What is Possible: Fine motor skills have become limited, although these individuals do have some use of their hands. A supportive environment where caregivers can anticipate every need, even when the individual isn’t aware of these needs, is vital. Guiding movements, providing structure to the day, and keeping them safe from harm is key to reducing risks to their overall health.

Pearl – Hidden Within a Shell – Beautiful Moments to Behold: In this phase, individuals are nearing the end of life and may have difficulty breathing or swallowing. However, there are still moments when they are alert and responsive, recognizing familiar voices, touches, smells and tastes. Creating moments of connection and letting these individuals know that it’s ok to let go is vital, as sometimes they may feel like they need permission to move on.

The Caring Treasures Program at American Senior Communities

American Senior Communities is proud to be an affiliated partner with Teepa Snow’s GEMS® and Positive Approach® to Care through our Auguste’s Cottage memory care. Our Caring Treasures program implements Teepa Snow’s techniques and philosophies to help make a difference for residents, their families and our staff.

Click here for more information about Auguste’s Cottage Memory Care at American Senior Communities.