The Dementia Handbook: Judy Cornish Answers How to Care at Home (Also Available in Spanish)

The Dementia Handbook now in Spanish

By Judy Cornish, Idaho, USA

Over a decade 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 became the owner of two businesses, an author, and the creator of the DAWN Method®, the strength-based 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 my neighbor—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 more comfortable. In 2014, I formed the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN) and, in 2015, started writing. This book, The Dementia Handbook: How to Provide Dementia Care at Home, was published in English in 2017. It is now available in Spanish as well, with many thanks to my friend Paula Muller, the founder of Sociavi. The Handbook explains the simple pattern of abilities and disabilities I first saw in dementia as succinctly and simply, to give families and caregivers a guide they could easily keep at hand.

Over the past decade, the DAWN Method has come to be recognized as the strength-based approach to dementia care—a way to work with our loved ones’ abilities and skills, rather than focusing on their losses. My goal, and Paula’s too, is to help all of us, as families, 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.

The Dementia Handbook

This little book recounts what Judy Cornish learned when she began working with people who were living in their own homes—with dementia. Judy, being an attorney with no medical background, saw their reactions to the problems dementia presents from a different perspective: from an experiential perspective rather than medical one. Instead of seeing people succumbing to a disease for which the symptoms are behaviors, Judy saw people distressed by finding themselves unable to use cognitive skills that they’d been using all their lives. And having used a different model to define dementia, she could see the pattern that allows families to plan care regardless of what type of dementia is being experienced. In other words, by approaching dementia with an experiential model rather than medical one, new solutions became available and a pathway of hope can be traced.

The result is a book that gives families and home caregivers a rubric for providing strength-based dementia care. With these principles, care partners can recognize which skills their loved one can no longer use, and avoid embarrassing and frustrating them inadvertently.

The DAWN Method is person-centered and habilitative in its approach, but goes further. Rather than suggesting ways to respond once a difficult situation arises, The Dementia Handbook shows care partners how to recognize and meet the emotional needs that cause people to react with stress behaviors. It shows them how to help people who are living with dementia regain a sense of security, not just provide for their wellbeing needs. In other words, it equips caregivers to be proactive.

Manual Para el Cuidado de la Demencia

Dementia Handbook in Spanish: Manual para el cuidado de la demenciaEste pequeño libro relata lo que Judy Cornish aprendió cuando comenzó a trabajar con personas que vivían en sus propios hogares—con demencia. Judy, siendo una abogada sin experiencia médica, vio las reacciones a los problemas que presenta la demencia desde una perspectiva diferente: una perspectiva experiencial más que médica. En lugar de ver a las personas sucumbir a una enfermedad por la cual los síntomas son comportamientos, Judy vio a personas angustiadas al sentirse incapaces de usar las habilidades cognitivas que habían usado toda la vida. Y al usar un modelo diferente para definir la demencia, ella pudo ayudar a las familias a planificar el cuidado de sus seres queridos independiente del tipo de demencia que se experimente. En otras palabras, al abordar la demencia con un modelo experiencial en lugar de uno médico, nuevas soluciones aparecen y un camino de esperanza se puede trazar.

El resultado es un libro que brinda a las familias y a los cuidadores en el hogar una rúbrica para brindar cuidado de la demencia basado en las fortalezas. Con estos principios, los cuidadores pueden reconocer qué habilidades sus seres queridos pierden al pasar el tiempo, y así pueden evitar avergonzarlos y frustrarlos sin darse cuenta.

El Método DAWN está centrado en la persona y es habilitante en su enfoque, pero va más allá. En vez de sugerir formas de responder una vez que surge una situación difícil, el Manual para el cuidado de la demencia muestra a los compañeros de cuidado cómo reconocer y satisfacer las necesidades emocionales que hacen que las personas reaccionen con comportamientos de estrés. Les muestra cómo ayudar a las personas que viven con demencia a recuperar el sentido de seguridad, no sólo proveer por sus necesidades de bienestar. En otras palabras, equipa a los cuidadores a ser proactivos.

About the Author

Judy Cornish 2023

Judy Cornish is an author, founder of the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network (DAWN®), creator of the DAWN Method® and retired elder law attorney. Her two books (The Dementia Handbook and Dementia With Dignity) take person-centered dementia care from theory to practice by teaching families how to provide strength-based dementia care. Through DAWN, Judy provides consulting, dementia coaching classes and an online video series for families and home caregivers. Her goal is to help families learn how to truly support their loved ones and enjoy more companionship as they live with dementia.

About the Translator

Muller 2023Paula Muller, PhD is the founder of Sociavi Company. She has a lifelong passion for technology as applied to healthcare. She earned a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering in Chile while working with the blind, and went on to work with EEGs as a preventive tool for epileptic seizures while living in Switzerland. After earning her doctoral degree at Rutgers University, she did postdoctoral work with Parkinson’s patients and worked at Authentidate Holding Corporation improving Telehealth products and services.

Paula volunteers as a bilingual community educator and support group facilitator for the Alzheimer’s Association, and holds multiple certifications in dementia care and training. The concept of Sociavi evolved from her professional background as well as her strong commitment to family relationships and lifetime connections. Thus SOCIAVI was born (meaning in Latin to share and unite) with the goal of keeping those aging in place and their families connected and closer together (

The Dementia Handbook on Amazon: English

The Dementia Handbook on Amazon: Spanish

Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN):
The DAWN Method Facebook Page
The DAWN Method Twitter
The DAWN Method LinkedIn

Judy Cornish, JD:
Judy Cornish Public Figure Facebook Page
Judy Cornish Twitter
Judy Cornish LinkedIn



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6 Responses

  1. Judy, what a wonderful gift you are bringing to those with dementia! I’m a fellow AlzAuthor, and my mother had Alzheimer’s for 14 years. I know from experience that my mother’s intuition stayed strong and true throughout her disease. Thank you for your work on behalf of those with this disease.

    1. Ann, thanks so much for sharing that. Knowing that the intuitive skills are still there, and recognizing our loved one’s communications and interactions as successful expressions of the intuitive self rather than broken expressions of rational thought, is one of the greatest kindnesses we can offer. Judy

    1. Thank you, Diana. I just couldn’t turn away from my neighbor, and then many of my neighbors, and then one step leads to the next and you learn one new skill after another and suddenly you’re trying to learn how to publish a book and use social media. 🙂 I’m so happy each time I hear that seeing this pattern of abilities – in dementia – has helped one more person enrich the life of one more who is experiencing dementia. My heartfelt applause goes to all of you who are living with and trying to help a loved one.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Elaine. We are excited to share our updated site with you.

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