By Judy Cornish
It’s been nine years since I left my law practice in Portland, Oregon, thinking I would semi-retire and spend most of my time gardening, skiing and enjoying the outdoors. Instead, I’ve been busier than ever before, with a task I just can’t walk away from. A friend asked me last summer why I’ve taken on so much and am working so hard. “I saw a mess and I saw a broom,” I replied, “and I couldn’t help picking up the broom and doing my best to clean up the mess.”
The ‘mess’ I saw is that we have a senior care industry well equipped to support people experiencing physical frailty, but that offers people with forgetfulness and confusion little more than misunderstanding, psychotropic drugs and locked doors. The ‘mess’ is that we, as families, don’t know how to help our loved ones cope when their cognitive skills begin to fade, and unwittingly cause them more pain and distress. And the ‘mess’ is that we, as a society, seem to have forgotten that life has three stages, not two: childhood and adulthood are followed by elderhood, and being an elder is no less valuable a role than being a child or an adult. The ‘broom’ I saw and picked up is what I learned from my clients—the many people I’ve worked with and come to love.
When I wrote and published my first book (The Dementia Handbook) in the spring of 2017, my dementia care business in Moscow, Idaho was keeping me very busy as the sole case manager, supervisor, accountant, lawyer and administrator. I had started providing dementia care in 2010, and founded DAWN (the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network®) in 2014—because I wanted to help other families begin caring for their loved ones in the same way. I began developing a training program that would help families provide truly strength-based care at home. I’m still very busy; I’m running both businesses, teaching the DAWN Method, and developing a set of short, dementia care videos for families to subscribe to and access online.
But at the same time, I began writing Dementia With Dignity – Living Well with Alzheimer’s or Dementia Using the DAWN Method® , and published it in January 2019. My first little book had explained the principles of the DAWN approach—what I’d learned from my clients here in Moscow as I strove to help them retain not only dignity and autonomy but also to continue to live rich and happy lives. But this second book is truly a work of love, from my heart. I knew I needed to give families not only the principles of DAWN care, but also the specific tools and techniques my clients have shown me are the kindest way to support their skills. Dementia With Dignity is filled with stories from my years with my clients—stories of their courage, wisdom and perseverance.
I’m still not retired. I’m still running both businesses, but I’m beginning to see that many of us have become aware of the ‘mess’ I saw back in 2010, that I’ve been joined by many who are also using their hearts and minds to the utmost—making a better world for those who experience dementia. We’re not there yet, but we’ve made great progress. Many families are now providing wise and supportive dementia care, at home, and our elders are beginning to enjoy more respect and autonomy, even with dementia. Once again—thank you! AlzAuthors, for the opportunity to share my vision with you and your readers.
About the Author
Judy Cornish is an elder law attorney, geriatric care manager and author who has spent the past nine years working with families and people experiencing dementia in northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. Prior to her law practice and founding the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN), Judy had worked in vocational rehabilitation and as a psychosocial skills trainer with the mentally ill. With her varied background—and education in literature, languages, fine arts and the law—she discovered a unique and truly effective approach to dementia care. The DAWN Method® enables families to recognize and meet their loved ones’ emotional needs, so they can live comfortably and safely at home for longer. Today, Judy runs Palouse Dementia Care, providing case management and care services on the Palouse, and DAWN, through which she consults and provides training in DAWN care.
Connect with Judy Cornish
Dementia With Dignity on Amazon
The Dementia Handbook on Amazon
Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN):
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