In-Home Care Company Answers Part of Government’s Plan for War on Alzheimer’s

“New Program Helps Seniors and Families Cope While Waiting For a Cure”

February 28, 2012 // // The federal government recently launched the new National Alzheimer’s Plan to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Part of that plan is to find ways for struggling families to better cope with the disease, today. Senior Helpers and a dementia care expert are helping make the government’s goal a reality with a program they created to help caregivers and families better communicate with those with dementia.

The new program is called Senior Gems. It’s a step-by-step guide that teaches hands-on care providers and families how to care for loved ones through each stage of dementia and Alzheimer’s. There are several traditional scales used to describe the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Teepa Snow, a nationally renowned dementia care expert, has taken the Allen Cognitive Disability Model, which focuses on what those with the disease are able to do, and replaced the numbered levels with gems. By using gems, Teepa not only reminds us of how precious our clients are, but also makes it easier to understand the progression of this disease.

“I'm thrilled with our government's new commitment to confront Alzheimers because it is taking a devastating toll on families across America," says Teepa Snow. "I certainly hope the researchers, with the new governmental support, will find a cure by 2025. But until and unless that happens, we can't just wait. Millions of people are living with various forms of dementia, not just Alzheimers. We are taking action by training Senior Helpers caregivers and family members in communities across the nation, how to better care for and communicate with our loved ones who are doing the best they can while living with a progressive condition that is robbing them of themselves.”

Show how Senior Helpers caregivers are using the Senior Gems program to help improve the lives of seniors and families touched by dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Quick Do's and Don'ts of Working With People Who Have Dementia:

  • Offer Supportive NOT Confrontational Communication
  • Emphasize what you want to have happen, NOT who’s the boss or who’s right
  • Recognize the value of mistakes or ‘UH OHs’ - and turn them into new strategies and ‘AH HAs!’
  • Provide short, simple information rather than asking questions you do NOT want to hear the answer to
  • Offer concrete and clear options or choices rather than wide open requests that require both word-finding and decision-making to answer

Learn Do’s and Don’ts of Working With Alzheimer’s Patients:

Most seniors with Alzheimer’s can perform a task once they get started, but they may have trouble initiating or switching tasks. Their abilities fluctuate from day to day, day to night, person to person, and minute to minute. This makes it hard to exactly predict what they will or will not be able to do. It means we, as caregivers, need to be flexible and supportive rather than pointing out the errors and getting frustrated with the changing abilities.

Memory Failure

If an Alzheimer’s patient forgets about a doctor’s appointment:

  • Don’t say “How could you forget? I told you three times!” This is frustrating for the senior to hear and puts them on the defensive. Remember, caregiving is not about being right.
  • Do say “I am sorry we didn’t get things worked out ahead of time for that appointment… (pause).. I thought I had said something about it, but I may not have. I will have to try to do a better job of making sure that happens, next time.” This helps break the communication barrier and helps the senior feel that you are on his/her side.
  • Alzheimer’s patients can’t remember new information but old memories are still intact. This is brain failure.
  • Don’t tell your mother with Alzheimer’s to meet you at Macy’s at the mall if it has moved to a new location. She will go to where Macy’s used to be – to what is now JC Penny’s - because she can’t remember the new information that Macy’s has moved. She may even drive around for hours trying to find Macy’s in the old location.
  • Do take your mother to the mall or hire a caregiver to take her. If you bring her there, she can’t get lost.

Show and Tell

When you’re caring for a senior with dementia, it’s important to show them how to perform everyday tasks instead of telling them how to do something. It’s called show-and-tell.

  • Don’t pull your dad with Alzheimer’s out of his seat and start leading him to the restroom. To him, that’s forceful.
  • Do, instead, show him with your hands and verbally tell him to stand up. Then, place his hand in yours and walk along side of him (not in front of him). This shows him that you’re guiding him with acceptance, and not forcing him to do something.
  • Don’t put a glass of juice in front of your dad’s mouth because he’ll become defensive, thinking you’re trying to force juice down his mouth.
  • Do take that glass of juice, while at his side (not in front of him), and with your hand in his, bring it to his mouth. He will more likely welcome that gesture and not think you’re “coming at him.”

*For further details of these examples, see Closer Look below.

“In any situation, it’s best to use empathy and validation rather than a reality check or lies. And it’s vital that we act now because our families are suffering,” says Snow. “They don’t understand the disease - and there’s no one to teach them. That’s why we started this program; to give families answers and show them, in practical terms, how to improve the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients and themselves, through better communication.”

Did you know?

  • More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and there is no cure. And the number is expected to grow to 13 million in the next 15 years.
  • Alzheimer’s is the most feared condition for elders. It replaced cancer in the last survey.
  • The annual cost of caring for one individual with Alzheimer’s disease ranges from nearly $18,500 to more than $65,000, depending on the stage of the disease and the setting.
  • It’s a progressive brain disorder that’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years, beginning at age 65.

About Senior Gems:

Senior Gems is a revolutionary program to help family members and professional caregivers properly care for their aging loved ones through each stage of dementia. Teepa Snow began developing her Gem Levels in 2006. In 2011, the Senior Gem program was created with her guidance and assistance. This program puts Senior Helpers at the forefront of individual and in-home dementia-specialized caregiving as they offer all of their in-home companions and caregivers the opportunity to become dementia care certified through the training program.

About Senior Helpers:

Senior Helpers connects professional caregivers with seniors who wish to live at home as opposed to a nursing or assisted living facility. The company has 300 franchises in 39 states and one in Canada offering a wide range of personal and companion care services to assist seniors living independently with a strong focus on quality of life for the client and peace of mind for their families. Senior Helpers strives to be the leading companion and personal care provider that offers dependable, consistent and affordable home care. For more information, please visit


Stacey Hilton

Sue Yannello



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