Montessori: Changing the Face of Dementia Care

Montessori in Aged Care is a fairly new concept that is picking up momentum in Australia. It revolves around the idea of maintaining independence rather than creating excess disability. Excess disability simply means to increase the dependence of the individual when they can independently complete the activity or task. For example, if an elderly woman can brush her hair, often a staff worker will do it for them with the impression that they are helping, when in actuality they are taking away the resident’s independence. Imagine living in a nursing home away from the comfort of your own home and not being allowed to do the things you enjoy.

Photo Credit: Edwin M Escobar

Montessori in Dementia Care enables individuals to maintain that independence, make choices and boost their self-esteem. It also empowers people to make important contributions and have a meaningful place in their community. The impact of dementia affects the resident in various ways including perception, attention, planning, insight, language, emotions, apathy, behavior, physical function and memory.

Therefore, the Montessori Method offers more choices and opportunities that promote self-determination and individuality to provide the best quality care for all. Here are strategies to provide relevant activities for people with dementia:

  • Take advantage of the known and remembered and use it to create meaningful activities for residents.
  • Offer more social interaction opportunities with people of all ages.
  • Provide more physical activity to keep residents, even those in wheelchair, active such as indoor bowling or ball games.
  • Provide mental stimulation for residents such as crosswords, word games, etc.
  • Utilize music therapy to play familiar music and trigger well-preserved memories and improve quality of life.
  • Delegate roles for different residents, if possible. Responsibility gives residents a sense of purpose.
  • Prepare resources ready to be used to minimize noise and distractions.
  • Know the residents individually: This involves personal history, employment, hobbies, interests and culture.
  • Always have a plan B, C, D, E, F, G because things never go as planned.

In conclusion, I think this new concept of dementia care focuses on the strengths and abilities of people with dementia rather than their condition. Montessori programs provide individuals the opportunity to engage the five senses, such as touch, sight, smell, taste and sound, and stimulate their minds. As success is easily achieved, people are encouraged to focus on tasks at hand. This creates a sense of security and high self-esteem, which contributes to the attainment of a life full of purpose and meaning.

Hazel Dompreh is currently a Diversional/Recreational Therapist at a nursing home in New South Wales, Australia.


4 responses to “Montessori: Changing the Face of Dementia Care”

  1. Very interesting! The only other time I have heard the term ‘Montessori’ is in the case of child education. I wonder if they originate or belong in the same philosophy umbrella.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Namratha! We had similar thoughts and it’s definitely interesting. While Montessori is associated with child education, professionals have applied certain aspects of Montessori to dementia care. For instance, children in Montessori schools experience an atmosphere of calm, choose their activities independently, work individually in a group or with a friend, etc. Since dementia care is becoming person-centered, Montessori methods are helpful to improve quality of life. Read more here – In terms of similar schools of thought, that’s worth looking into!

  2. This is certainly a topic of interest at my university and I was wondering if there were any additional articles that could be brought to my attention to begin my search? I will certainly check out the link provided in the comment above. Thank you for the article!

    1. You are welcome, Aaron! Thanks for your comment and we are glad that your school is interested in this topic. While there are many articles on dementia, we believe that this is our only piece on Montessori in Aged Care. Check Google or PUBMED and we can also write another piece!

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