This is one in a series of posts describing the ten Montessori Principles for dementia care. Click here for the first post in the series
We've all heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia that could probably be raised to ten thousand words. The ability to process words deteriorates early in people with dementia but the ability to process gestures and visual cues does not. That leads us to Montessori Principle Five - demonstrate rather than explain.
When working with someone with dementia, don't tell them how to do it, show them. As Dr. Montessori said, "If you tell them they will watch your lips move, if you show them they will want to do it themselves."
Try not to talk to dementia patients while demonstrating because that is distracting and makes it harder for them to follow. It is also important that you demonstrate only one step at a time rather than the whole process, which may involve many steps, because showing too much at once can make it confusing. For example, if the person is helping to make a salad, rather than demonstrate the whole process from start to finish, show them how to tear the lettuce and let them complete that step before demonstrating the next. It is important to demonstrate slowly and purposefully, watching to ensure that they understand what you are doing. The more advanced their dementia, the more important this is.