Caring for Someone with Dementia at Home
A dementia roadmap for families
When you suspect that your loved one is experiencing dementia, it can be overwhelming. Though you may grieve the loss of how things were before, not all is lost. Caring for someone with dementia at home is very possible. We can show you how. Bookmark this page now and reference it often.
There is hope in dementia. It lies in how we provide care.
The same person, traveling an unexpected path…
A person with dementia is still the same person deep down, and if you learn to capitalize on the skills they will not lose, you can still experience many more happy times together. We have put together this dementia roadmap with tips on how to care for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s at home to help you get started down a less stressful path to dementia care.
“When I have the privilege of giving even glimpses of the DAWN method to a family, it’s as if they get to take a deep breath for the first time in a really long time.”
Jill CouchOT, DDCS, DAWN Trainer, caregiver & owner of Better People Care
1—“Preparing for Dementia” Video Series
Sign up for the DAWN newsletter and get the free video series, “Preparing for Dementia.” In the first video, Judy Cornish will explain what dementia is, the signs of dementia, and give suggestions on how and where to look for assistance. In the second video she covers the skills kept and lost to dementia as well as the emotional needs created by dementia. In the third video, Judy describes what to expect as you journey through the six stages of dementia from a functional perspective.
Not seeing a video above? You will need to accept “Experience enhancement” cookies to view our videos. (Click “lock” symbol at bottom left corner of window to view or change your consent preferences.)
2—What is different about the DAWN Method of dementia care?
A strength-based, person-centered approach to care
There are two very different approaches we can take when we are living and working with people who are experiencing dementia. Using the “habilitative” (or person-centered) approach, rather than the medical approach (“appropriate care” or reality orientation), can change the care relationship from one of conflict and misunderstanding, into one of companionship and less distress for both parties.
In this sample video from the Product: DAWN HomeCare Online Dementia Course for Families, Judy Cornish explains in more detail what person-centered care is and why it works so well with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the DAWN Method and the story of how Judy Cornish came to be involved with people experiencing dementia, read our blog article, “Blog article: What is the DAWN Method of dementia care?“
3—Read more about the stages of dementia
Read more about the Page about stages of dementia from a functional perspective. Understand what changes to watch for in your loved one that will indicate that they need increased help or overnight care.
Not sure if your loved one has dementia? You may want to watch, “Video on YouTube: Is it Dementia or Normal Aging? What are the signs of dementia and what is just normal aging?” This article may also help: Blog article: Keep Me Safe, But Let Me be Me blog article.
Learn how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia at home
“The DAWN classes really helped our family learn a better perspective for helping our dad. This is a method that respects the whole person; we now have hope for my dad’s future and we have confidence in our ability to walk with him during this time of his life.”
Mary Ann W.family caregiver (about the DAWN Method)
4—BEFORE YOU MOVE THEM (or their furniture), READ THIS!
If someone has dementia, they are probably relying on automatic thinking scripts or “mindlessness” to do a number of things like finding the bathroom at night or making coffee. Before you move them (or anything in their environment) read the following blog articles:
- Blog article: Mindlessness—the Benefits of Automatic Thinking for Dementia
- Blog article: Don’t Move Them—Let Them Use Mindlessness
- Blog article: Mindlessness—the Benefits of Using Muscle Memory for Dementia (This article has tips for what to do if you have no choice but to move them.)
5—Accepting grief & finding hope in dementia
When there is a diagnosis of dementia, it is tempting to see only loss, but all is not lost. It IS very important to acknowledge the grief and loss that we feel. Our society is one that tends to avoid unpleasant emotions, but all emotions are a part of the human experience.
If we can get beyond our grief, though, there is a path to caring for someone with dementia that can bring more happy times.
Stories of how others have found hope in dementia
In our blog article, Blog article: There is a Roadmap for Dementia, Judy introduces a 2017 piece from the New York Times about a woman named Geri and her husband, Jim. After receiving a diagnosis of dementia, Geri, along with Jim, chose to honestly and courageously accept Geri’s condition, defy the Blog article about stigma surrounding dementia, and continue living fully with determination. Follow the links in the article to learn more about their journey.
If you are struggling with grief, you may find Judy’s conversation with Hanh Brown of the Boomer Podcast helpful. Hanh and Judy have a Boomer Podcast interview with Judy with candid discussion about acknowledging grief when caring for a parent with dementia.
6—Understand the skills kept and the skills lost to dementia
This is the key to the DAWN Method: understanding the skills kept and the skills lost. Once we understand what they can and cannot do, we can begin to change our way of interacting so that we don’t set them up for failure and embarrassment.
Blog articles about the skills kept and lost
- This article summarizes the three pairs of skills kept and lost to dementia: Blog article: What is the DAWN Method of dementia care? (this article also referenced in step 2)
- Losing rational thought: Blog article: Why DAWN Focuses on the Loss of Rational Thought
- Keeping intuitive thought: Blog article: Be Demented Happily–Live in the Intuitive World
- Keeping the experiential self, losing the remembering self: Blog article: The Experiential Self and the Remembering Self
- More on keeping the experiential self: Blog article: Why is the Experiential Self So Important?
- Losing mindfulness, keeping mindlessness (this article also referenced above in step 4): Blog article: Mindlessness—the Benefits of Automatic Thinking for Dementia
7—Understand the emotional needs caused by dementia
- Understanding the cause of dementia-related behaviors: Blog article: Behaviors Aren’t the Problem, It’s the Emotions That Cause Them
- How emotions affect our behaviors: Blog article: How We Feel Dictates How We Behave
- Our series on anger and dementia:
“I do not see the problems caused by dementia as ‘dementia-related behaviors,’ but instead as the emotional distress that people experience when they undergo progressive cognitive impairment.”
Judy Cornishcreator of the DAWN Method
Ready to learn how to support someone with dementia?
“I am so glad I found the DAWN HomeCare Dementia Training. I learned so many things that have made my care for my husband more sensitive and understanding. I am much more relaxed and focused on creating a pleasant environment and life for him. Now that I understand what he has lost or is losing… and what he retains…, I concentrate on the skills he has left. I am conscious of what is important, helpful, and enjoyable, while letting go of unrealistic expectations… I signed up for the 12 month program because I plan to share this with our caregivers. That way we all will be able to provide my husband the best, most compassionate care we know how.”
Barbara Campbellfamily caregiver (about DAWN HomeCare)
8—Your new superpower: YOU control the mood with dementia
In the second lesson of the DAWN Method page listing all dementia courses, we cover “Mood Management”. It is foundational and the first of the DAWN Method tools.
- Blog article: Shaping the Mood in Dementia
- Blog article: Music—Adding Comfort and Enjoyment to Dementia
9—Communicating with someone experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s
Conversation is so essential to our well-being and something we take for granted. When people are experiencing dementia, it becomes more and more of a challenge. As someone starts to have difficulty following conversations, they will begin to withdraw out of fear and embarrassment. We can help them to be successful in conversations, though.
In these articles and one interview, we introduce some tips on how to make conversation less stressful for both of you:
- Blog article: Dementia and the Telephone
- How to Enhance Conversations in Dementia
- Blog article: How Should I Respond When She Doesn’t Make Sense?
- Blog article: Is it Dishonest to Go Along with Altered Realities?
- Blog article: Turning No into Yes: Reaching Underlying Issues of Disempowerment
- Love Conquers Alz podcast interview with Judy—Topic: Love Conquers Alz Podcast episode on YouTube: How to change our approach when interacting with people experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s (listen on YouTube). Susie Singer Carter and Don Priess talk with Judy Cornish in this hour long podcast.
10—Maintaining dignity, despite dementia
We are afraid of dementia. When I forget the name of an object, it is natural for me to wonder if my memory is failing me and ponder the possibility of dementia. I worry about how I would take care of myself and that I might lose my freedom to do the things that I enjoy.
Understand how scary the prospect of dementia and Alzheimer’s is for people experiencing it as they realize that their memories and memory skills really ARE failing them. Remember, you are working with an adult, not a child—an adult who has lived a full life, possibly raised children, has taught and directed other people—an adult who has become used to being the expert in the room. They are still the same person with the same need to feel accepted, important, admired and needed, though some of their cognitive skills are failing them.
If we as caregivers learn to use the tools of the DAWN Method, we can support our loved ones in the skills they are losing and we can help them to maintain a sense of security and accomplishment. We can remind them of who they are and create opportunities for them to contribute and so, support their sense of self.
The blog articles below will give you a feel for the later tools that we teach in the Product: DAWN HomeCare Online Dementia Course for Families and in Judy’s book, Page about book, Dementia With Dignity.
Blog articles related to Dementia With Dignity:
- Blog article: Supporting a Sense of Self in Dementia
- Blog article: Give the Gift of Dignity in Dementia
- Blog article: How to Enable Choice, Not Restrict It
- Blog article: Being a Dementia Partner
11—Next steps in your dementia roadmap
If you’ve made it to step 11, thank you. We appreciate you taking the time to slow down and think about how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia in a way that supports the person’s dignity and autonomy.
We know that caring for someone with dementia at home may seem daunting. We can help. Sign up for DAWN HomeCare today and begin your journey on a less stressful path to care.
“The DAWN Method training and tools are a valuable lifeline for those involved in caring for someone with dementia. The information provided in the coursework is excellent. And the ability to share the training with family members is a great idea. I am encouraged and empowered. Thank you, Judy and the DAWN team!”