People living with dementia (PLWD) need guidance, human connection and a sense of independence. In my professional practice, we use the Positive Physical Approach (PPA). This innovative modality developed by Teepa Snow teaches family caregivers more effective ways to understand and communicate with their loved ones and all people with dementia.

Approach from the front. All humans are visually oriented. Approaching a PLWD from the front at approximately six feet away will give them the time they need to adjust to your presence.

Go slow. Starting at six feet or farther away, begin taking steps toward your PLWD one second apart. As we age, our reflexes and mental processing gradually slow down. Taking this into account, a PLWD needs a few more seconds to process what they see, hear, think and feel.

Call out their name. Sometimes a PLWD can be lucid but other times he or she can forget who you are. The best way to make your entrance is to introduce yourself and ask them for their name. Try saying “Hi, I’m Jane and you are?” They may respond with their first name or simply “I’m your mother.” Either way, you are allowing them to tell you who they are in that moment of time.

“Offer” your hand. Notice that I did not say “take their hand.” The goal is to look like a friend instead of a threat. Instead of approaching with a
quick handshake, maintain the connection. We can accomplish this by switching into a hand under-hand position.

Get to the side. It’s important to remember nonverbal cues and body positioning. Avoid a dominant, confrontational stance by repositioning yourself into a supportive stance. This will relieve agitation and provide a sense of comfort for the PLWD.

Get low. Position yourself at or below the PLWD’s eye level. A more submissive position will allow the PLWD to open up and feel at ease in your presence.

These positive approach techniques taught in caregiving workshops help maintain the dignity of the PLWD by enabling loved ones to perform activities with them rather than being perceived as doing things to them.

Caregiver Education & Consultation
Mapuana Taamu, Certified PAC Trainer
808-469-5330 |
Caregiver’s workshop: IT’S ALL IN YOUR APPROACH, scheduled at Pohai Nani (August, September, October), Kapiolani CC (September, October, November). Contact Hawaii Memory Friends for time and details.