How do we proceed after a dementia diagnosis?

Ask the Experts by Barbara Roden

Q: Our father has been diagnosed with early signs of dementia. What approach should we take with him now? What activities can we still plan with him? What should we expect in the future?

A: The first step may be to determine at which stage of his disease is your father. One method of assessing that is called The Senior Gems®. This six-stage classification system, created and developed by Teepa Snow, Positive Approach, LLC, is a method for identifying the characteristics of aging, from normal aging through the early and late-stage dementia.

It allows trained caregivers to identify the characteristics of different stages of dementia and understand what a person can still do based on a gem level and using specific strategies to care for our seniors.

From the question posed above, it sounds as if your father may currently be a "Diamond." He is clear and sharp - but something is going on with him.

Do things with him whereby he is comfortable and familiar. Diamonds are rigid and don't like change; they want habits and routines to stay the same. They like to discuss past events and have a difficult time with new information. Diamonds don't remember things, and they don't like it when you point that out.

Be prepared to listen to old stories. You may have to modify some activities a bit - but make sure your father feels valued and competent.

Your most important phrase is "sorry" or "I'm sorry, you're right." You won't win a battle here. Get rid of the phrase "don't you remember?" Because they don't.

For further information on the Senior Gems® program, please attend the seminar/presentation, held on October 20, 2015. We will go through the Gems® classification system, covering all the stages, in great detail.

Barbara Roden is the Owner of Senior Helpers located at 18080 Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe. For further information call 313.885.0600 or visit the website at Senior Helpers is a member of the Family Center's Association of Professionals.

Save the Date

The Senior Gems: Understanding the Stages of Alzheimer's and Dementia

October 20, 2015 6:30 p.m.

Colleen McDonald and Kevin Snycerski, of Senior Helpers, will teach you to recognize which stage of dementia a person is experiencing for better engagement and interaction.

Location: SOC (Services for Older Citizens) 158 Ridge, Grosse Pointe Farms

FREE, Register online at or call 313.432.3832

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