HealthIamA, writer and speaker, Judy Cornish, believer in supporting the abilities of dementia. AMA!
Feb 19th 2017 by JudyCornish • 8 Questions • 464 Points
I am Judy Cornish and I’m the creator of the DAWN Method and founder of DAWN (the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network®). I am also a recovering attorney, avid skier and gardener, devotee of the Met Opera HD, and dedicated pursuer of the perfect shot of espresso.
Like any endeavor of the heart, finding a better way to provide dementia care wasn’t my plan back in 2010. I’d moved to this small town in northern Idaho to semi-retire and practice elder law part time. But I couldn’t stand by when a neighbor with Alzheimer’s needed help, and then another neighbor, and another, and soon I was completely absorbed in finding a way to design better dementia care.
What I came up with was this: Dementia is bad, but not all bad. Dementia takes away rational thought but not intuitive thought—and it’s intuitive thought that lets us do the fun things in life. Dementia takes away the remembering self but not the experiential self—which is only bad news if caregivers don’t understand what an experiential self does. And finally, dementia causes emotional distress, not craziness or behaviors. It’s the emotional pain that’s the problem (we all act a little crazy when we’re upset or can't figure out what's going on).
I’ve spent the last two years developing a training program and writing two books. We’re videoing my classes this spring and plan to have my first book, The Dementia Handbook – How to Provide Dementia Care at Home, out on Amazon in March.
Our goal at DAWN is very simple: We want to equip every family and every caregiver to provide truly supportive dementia care, so people can stay home and families can avoid the incredibly high cost of long-term care. But, more than anything, we want every person who experiences dementia to have a partner who understands the beauty of living intuitively.
So, I’m here to answer any questions you might have about this kinder way to provide dementia care, one that makes dementia care less painful for everyone involved.
How do you think we should talk to them? Like when they say anything that does not make sense, should we agree to that or correct them? Is there any way it can be reduced?
That's a lot of questions, so I may address them in order and hit send in between answers. I think we should talk to someone who has dementia with the same respect we would grant anyone, but at the same time being careful that we don't ask them to use the skills they have lost or are in the process of losing. Those skills are rational thought and memory. So, losing memory means they are losing the ability to retrieve memories so their comprehension of what has happened and is happening becomes increasingly inaccurate. Losing rational thought means they are becoming increasingly unable to see cause and effect, or prioritize ideas or facts or action, or hold those ideas or facts in their minds, or follow a series of steps. If I ask someone questions when they can't perform these kinds of thinking skills, I'm putting them on the spot and embarrassing them. If I require them to believe my version of what is true, has happened, is happening, I'm asking them to ignore what their brains are telling them and ignore their sense of reality. So, if I'm accepting their abilities disabilities, I accept their version of reality and work with their reality to make it comfortable for them. This is a brief foray into the much longer discussion of the difference between habilitative care and reality orientation. Habilitative care is the approach that I believe is required to help people with dementia live comfortably and safely.