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Understanding Thinking Skills

This section of the Resource Area provides key concepts of the DAWN Method that may help you reframe your understanding of Dementia. 

People bloom when they hear words of encouragement and hope.

Words can influence our perspective, knowledge, feelings, and concepts. Words impact the way we think about our
world and those we interact with.

Altering how we see and speak about dementia and cognitive changes starts with understanding the labels, definitions, and words we use. Individuals experiencing changes in thinking, memory, and attention skills are often stigmatized by the heavy and dark language of despair, suffering, and angst. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The more we understand our brains, the better we can support those who are experiencing challenges and create an environment to encourage them to bloom.

Dementia is not a diagnosis but a group of symptoms impacting thinking and social symptoms enough to interrupt
everyday functioning. Symptoms include forgetfulness, isolation, and changes in attention and thinking abilities.
There are multiple forms of dementia that result from a variety of diseases and injuries that primarily or secondarily
affect the brain.

It is important to seek medical support if there are changes to your thinking and social skills to rule out any conditions that may be causing them.

LEARN MORE about the dementia diagnosis 

The negative social attitude is based on personally known and unknown biases attached to a characteristic of an individual that may be regarded as a mental, physical, or social deficiency. A stigma implies social disapproval and can lead unfairly to discrimination against and exclusion of the individual.

The tendency to be prejudiced against older adults, to negatively stereotype them, and to discriminate against them,
especially in employment and health care.

Habilitative care:
We are embracing habilitative care when we accept individuals’ abilities and disabilities and modify the environment
and our expectations to make it safer and more comfortable for them to be included and successful in their
communities. Caregivers and societies who are habilitative in their approach focus on their companions’ individual
understandings of reality rather than forcing the agreement of what may be seen as a common reality. The focus is on
meeting companions’ emotional needs and preserving dignity and autonomy.

Person-directed care:
Dementia care that is based on an individual’s desired and changing personal needs rather than dictated by schedules,
Protocols, or norms. The person-directed caregiver supports their companion’s abilities and provides targeted assistance in the areas where help is needed. This not only meets the person’s needs but also supports his or her interests.

Remembering self:
Looking back and recalling the roles we’ve carried out, the hobbies we’ve had, and with whom we enjoyed spending
time brings us a sense of familiarity with our surroundings. Our remembering selves shape our interpretation of
what we are experiencing in the present by providing confirmation and explanations drawn from our past experiences.

Experiential self:
Appreciating the present by experiencing what is occurring to us and around us. The experiential self is absorbing.
Information from the many physical senses, even if we are not able to understand the stimuli we are receiving or explain what we are experiencing.

Rational thought processes:
Rational thought is our conscious, reasoning self, and deductive thinking skill. We use it to analyze data, be methodical, make choices, see cause and effect, prioritize information and actions, and follow a process or series of steps. Rational thought is not instantaneous; it takes effort. Rational thought will also tell us whether our behavior is appropriate for the circumstance and includes our ability to learn by rote.

Intuitive thought processes:
Intuitive thought operates automatically, instantaneously, and without effort. It is the source of our feelings,
impressions, and gut reactions. We use our intuitive thought skills when we read intonation, facial expressions,
and body language. Intuitive thought is our means of enjoying music and beauty. It includes our ability to learn by

According to Ellen Langer, “Mindfulness is a flexible state of mind in which we are actively engaged in the present,
noticing new things.” It comes from being able to use rational thought and attention.

When we are not actively engaged in what we are doing, we are acting unconsciously and following a series of steps or
behaving without conscious decision.

Automatic thinking scripts:
The first tool of mindlessness. The ability to mindlessly complete a routine task without thinking about the individual
steps. Automatic thinking scripts are created by repetition. People experiencing dementia continue to be able to
perform routine tasks using automatic thinking scripts if there is no interruption or change to the setting.

Muscle memory:
The second tool of mindlessness. The ability to mindlessly follow a route or the steps in a task that we have performed
many times before. Our muscles follow the pattern without conscious direction. When we ask someone to pay
attention, muscle memory is interrupted and lost.

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