Loneliness from isolation causes brain change that appears to speed up the progress of dementia symptoms, according to Teepa Snow, a world famous educator on positive approaches to dementia care www.teepasnow.com. Loneliness brain changes increase chemicals for stress responses and reduces chemicals for mental acuity, immune responses and breathing. Those were the symptoms that worried me during Lynne’s isolation: decreases in acuity to make decisions, remember names, and understand jokes, and increases in anxiety, stress and paranoia.
Teepa Snow explained these brain changes in a short podcast about loneliness and dementia. Better yet, she recommended practical care behaviors to overcome those declines. It was powerful. She relieved my anxiety about Lynne’s decline and gave me skills I could use.. They worked.
I used her lessons to create a customized “automobile restorative therapy” to relieve her negative brain change when I drove her to an appointment with her doctor the weekend after she moved in to her apartment. When I picked up, I shared my excitement about Teepa Snow with Curly, the Activities Care Director. He also thinks she is marvelous.
Encouraged, I followed her directions. First, be energetic to uplift her when you greet her. Second, pause, to let her respond with social skills to strengthen synapses idled by loneliness.
Third, make her laugh watching a funny video of dogs and cats escaping isolation that appeared inescapable. Fourth play music, Cat Stevens is who she likes, and pause as she sings the lyrics. She started slowly, but increasingly sang more lyrics as she listened to every song over the 20-minute ride. She said she didn’t recognize some of the songs and I didn’t either.
We socialized with staff and her doctor whom she’d known since before she was a mother. I asked both whether she was experiencing menopause and learned that ended years ago. I had no idea. Her doctor is satisfied with the low prescriptions of her antidepressant medications given her likely improvement after isolation.
We walked outside for over a mile in the sunshine to eat frozen yogurt. I reviewed the good news from Teepa Snow that isolation was affecting her depression, memory loss, anxiety, etc. She liked what she heard.
On the way home she listened and sang along with Cat Stevens. She asked, “Is this all Cat Stevens?” She was processing and generalizing. Good synapse exercises.
“ Yes, do you want to switch?” Pause
“No, I like it.” I stayed silent — steeped in a Teepa Snow pause cause.
I told my grandsons so they’d use the skills with their mother, particularly pause. Her son Simon said, “Yea, did you notice Curly use it when we had the Zoom conference on Sunday?”
He paused. I needed it — I was embarrassed. He was better trained. He plans to be a nurse and has worked in assisted living.
“Do you remember when they logged into the portfolio of participants? Curly pointed to each person on the screen and asked Lynne if she knew who that was. He paused after each one. She named them.”
I have so much to learn.
By the way, Teepa Snow’s care behaviors helped me, because the brain changes depressing me were the sames brain changes depressing Lynne.