The method I’ve developed, which we’re using so successfully here at DAWN, is to accept the reality of the person with dementia and work with it. This technique is part of the habilitative approach, which is increasingly being put to use, even in care facilities. To be habilitative means to take responsibility for dealing with your loved one or client’s inability to comprehend reality and manage their environment so they don’t react negatively and act out.
The term to habilitate was coined by Joanne Koenig Coste and is described in her book Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s (she defines being habilitative as “to make capable”). But, habilitation is a theoretical approach, described in tenets and domains. It’s not a set of tools. Here at DAWN we’ve gone beyond the theory and created a set of tools. We know that in order to live and work with people with dementia, we need tools.
The DAWN Method enables the average person – any family member or caregiver – to recognize and respond to the emotional needs and emotional distress caused by dementia. It is the emotional distress caused by cognitive impairment that causes dementia-related behaviors. It’s the behaviors that make living with or working with people who have dementia so difficult.
Locking people up or medicating them are expensive ways to deal with the behaviors caused by the emotional distress that comes with experiencing dementia. Meeting the person’s emotional needs is free and much more effective. Using the DAWN tools allows families to keep their loved ones at home longer: when their loved ones with dementia are happier and more comfortable, families experience less stress and expense.
The DAWN Method provides a means of keeping people with dementia at home so we can put off and minimize the catastrophic expense that families, Medicare and Medicaid are faced with when someone needs institutional care.