By Judy Cornish
Seven years ago I left my law practice in Portland, Oregon, in search of a small town where I could semi-retire and practice elder law. I found the community I was looking for in Moscow, Idaho, but not retirement. Instead, I’m now the owner of two businesses, an author, and the creator of the DAWN Method, a unique approach to dementia care that helps families keep their loved ones at home with more comfort and less stress. It all began with a courageous, sweet, whitehaired woman who lived across the street from me.
She lived alone, with no children nearby, and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years earlier. When her family said they were moving her into a care facility because she could no longer drive, I volunteered to help her stay on at home. Within a few months, I was helping so many neighbors it became necessary to hire staff. Palouse Dementia Care was born.
From the start, my goal was simple: I wanted to help her—and each of my new clients–continue to live where they wished to live, with dignity and autonomy. My training, however, was not in medicine or social work. I was a lawyer with a classical education.
And yet, my background became an asset: it caused me to see my clients’ dementia from a different perspective. In their changing abilities I saw a pattern. They were experiencing distress over the loss of rational thought but, if I encouraged them to communicate using intuitive thought, they relaxed and found comfort and success. And, although they were losing both memory and memories (their remembering selves), when I joined them in experiencing the present, they were delighted and blossomed, because their experiential selves were intact.
At first I trained only my staff, but soon families were asking what we were doing that helped their loved ones become so comfortable. In 2014, I formed the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN) and, in 2015, started writing.
The Dementia Handbook: How to Provide Dementia Care at Home was published this spring. It explains the simple pattern of abilities and disabilities I first saw in dementia. My second book, Dementia With Dignity: Using the Tools of the DAWN Method, will come out this fall. It details the emotional needs caused by dementia and provides specific techniques for responding to each of them. I wrote both books for us—the families and friends of people who are experiencing dementia.
The response to my dementia care approach has been very positive from the start here on the Palouse, with many people volunteering and helping me make it available to a wider audience. The response to the book has been positive, too. On Amazon.com, we’ve been on the first page of dementia books almost from publication.
Although my retirement goal changed, my goal in working with and writing about dementia has never wavered. I want to help us, as families, to provide the kindest dementia care possible, enabling our elders to live longer at home with dignity and autonomy. Thank you, AlzAuthors, for the opportunity to share my hope with you and your readers.
About the Author
Judy Cornish is an elder law attorney and geriatric care manager who has spent the past seven years working with families and people experiencing dementia in northern Idaho. Prior to her work in dementia care, she practiced law, worked in vocational rehabilitation with traumatic brain injury, and spent a year as a psychosocial skills trainer in an enhanced care unit for the mentally ill. With her varied background—and education in literature, languages, fine arts and the law—she brings a diverse set of skills and a unique approach to dementia care. Her DAWN Method enables families to keep their loved ones at home longer, with less stress and more comfort. Today, Judy runs Palouse Dementia Care, providing case management and care services on the Palouse, and the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN), through which she consults and provides training in the DAWN Method.
Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN):