Here at the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN®), we’ve discovered something really special. We’ve found that although our clients lose some cognitive skills, they never lose all their skills. In fact, with dementia, we keep our primary thinking skills and continue to live in the present—fully able to enjoy beauty, positive emotions and companionship.
There are strengths in dementia, and both you and your loved one will benefit when you understand how to provide strength-based care. You will be able to keep your loved one home longer, with fewer conflicts, and your family will have less stress and expense.
What we believe
We believe in preserving dignity and autonomy through aging in place for as long as possible. We do this by training families and caregivers to recognize and meet the emotional needs caused by dementia, how to support the cognitive skills their loved ones lose, and how to work with the skills they’ll keep.
The seven tools of the DAWN Method® of dementia care
The first three DAWN tools are techniques for caregivers to help their loved ones regain a sense of security. Feeling secure is the most basic human need; we cannot relax if we don’t feel safe. The last four tools help caregivers enhance their loved one’s sense of contentment (“wellbeing”). When caregivers use the first three DAWN tools, their loved ones learn that they can still be safe, and become more emotionally stable. With the last four DAWN tools, caregivers are equipped to restore and enhance their loved ones’ sense of comfort in moments when discomfort looms.
The model or metaphor that best describes how the tools of the DAWN Method work together is the DAWN flower:
The DAWN flower shows the emotional needs created by dementia as a feedback loop—with the first DAWN tool, mood management, at its center. Mood management is central to being proactive and providing strength-based dementia care, because when someone loses their memory and thinking skills, they have lost the very skills we normally use to manage our own moods. Their companions have become their mood managers, whether they realize it or not. Learning how to proactively create positive moods is the first tool of the DAWN Method, and one that enriches both care partners for the rest of their lives.
Once caregivers know how to create and maintain positive moods, they can help their loved ones learn an enduring sense of security in the two areas most vital to those undergoing cognitive impairment: learning that they can be safe even when confused, and learning that they can be safe accepting help from others.
The four components of wellbeing are much simpler. Someone can be given the gift of contentment (wellbeing) in moments and, if someone or something takes it away, their care partner can restore it in moments. With dementia, we have no need to learn contentment, because we never lose the skills we need to enjoy what others bring to us.
Once care partners are working with all seven of the DAWN tools, the relationship between them and their loved ones becomes marked by contentment and beauty rather than conflict and distress.
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