Guest Author: Judy Cornish

The Dementia Handbook by Judy Cornish Memory Cafe Directory

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The Dementia Handbook: How to Provide Dementia Care at Home

By Judy Cornish

I’m always struck by how many books about dementia and Alzheimer’s are written by medical professionals. This in spite of the fact that most dementia care is provided by people like you and me — people doing their best to walk the dementia journey with someone they love.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

After all, dementia isn’t a disease but a condition – something we’re forced to live with because there’s no effective treatment. It’s the experience of losing some of our cognitive skills (not all) in a distinct way that changes how we interact and perceive the world around us. That’s a change in functioning, not medical status.

That’s a change in functioning, not medical status

From Law to Love

If you come to understand the implications of this statement, it will make a profound difference in your relationship with your loved one. It’s the reason I’ve given up practicing law and spent a decade of my life primarily with people who are experiencing dementia.

It’s why I wrote and published two books in four years, despite having to first learn how to write, edit and publish. And that’s why I founded the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN) and still haven’t retired.

How I Became Involved

For me, it wasn’t a family member, but one of my neighbors when I moved to the northern Idaho town of Moscow. I couldn’t stand by and watch her moved from her home of many years when she just needed someone to check in on her and help her with errands.

She wasn’t becoming frail, but she was becoming forgetful and easily confused. Within weeks, other families had requested my help too, and it seemed I’d unintentionally started a business supporting people who were living in their own homes with dementia.

I found myself intrigued by what my new friends were experiencing and the way their cognitive skills were changing. There was a pattern I was seeing that had nothing to do with medicine or disease. I realized that if families understood that we keep valuable skills in dementia, they could care for their loved ones at home for much longer and with more kindness.

For Whom I Write

So my books, The Dementia Handbook and Dementia With Dignity, are written for families and people who are caring for a loved one at home or in a care facility. They explain what someone experiencing dementia can still do and do well, and how we can work with that.

The Dementia Handbook by Judy Cornish Memory Cafe Directory

Available on Amazon

Dementia with Dignity by Judy Cornish Memory Cafe Directory

Available on Amazon

  • The Dementia Handbook describes the pattern of skills kept and lost that I came to see my friends with dementia experiencing, and succinctly states the philosophy and principles I found most helpful for supporting their strengths.
  • My second book, Dementia With Dignity, is larger and longer. In it I explain dementia from the perspective of the emotional needs caused by the experience of dementia, I explain the techniques and tools that we’ve found so effective here, with many stories and anecdotes drawn from my experiences with families and clients.

DAWN and my books are a work of the heart, not a business or vocation. I’ve become an author because my neighbors, who became my clients and my friends, taught me something worth sharing.

They couldn’t spread the message, but I could.

They taught me what’s important in life and showed me how to accept what I must let go. They showed me how to appreciate beauty and treasure humanity. In particular, they taught me three truths:

FirstDementia does not take away all our skills and that we keep the most important ones.

SecondSymptoms of dementia are not “dementia-related behaviors”; they are the emotions we feel when we lose skills that we’ve been using our whole lives.

ThirdWe only lose ourselves to dementia when our companions don’t understand that they can become our memory keepers and storytellers.

So please read my books and hear the message of joy my neighbors and friends have shared with me. There are gifts in letting go of the frenetic pace of our accomplishment-driven society and joining someone who is forced to live in the present. When we understand that not all our skills will be lost to dementia, our lives can be filled with wonder and beauty, not only suffering and loss.



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Judy Cornish

Judy Cornish DAWN Dementia Handbook Memory Cafe Directory

Judy Cornish

Judy Cornish is an attorney licensed in Idaho and Oregon and a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Before becoming a lawyer, Ms. Cornish worked in vocational rehabilitation with people who have brain injuries and as a Qualified Mental Health Associate with the mentally ill.

With her background in traumatic brain injury, mental illness, elder law and disability law, Ms. Cornish brings a distinctive set of abilities to her work with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In 2010 Ms. Cornish founded the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Well-being Network (DAWN®) in Moscow, Idaho. Through her hands-on work with dementia, she developed a proprietary method for working with people who have dementia—one that helps them develop and retain a sense of security and well-being.

The DAWN Method® is simple enough to be used by caregivers in the home and works in care facilities as well. It targets the emotional distress that accompanies cognitive decline so that behaviors are avoided and caregiver stress is minimized.

Today the DAWN Method is in use with seniors in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington, using a two-tiered care system of case managers and dementia care specialists. Ms. Cornish provides training in the DAWN Method and consults with families in the Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington region.

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