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
The Montessori dementia care principle of "error free" means that we try to make memory care activities for people with Alzheimer's and dementia that have no right or wrong, have a high probability of success and do not have winners and losers. We try to anticipate steps that may be too challenging and modify them in advance to allow for success. We provide the dementia patients with feedback, both verbally and by the design of the activity itself. We try to make the activity "self correcting" which means that any problems are obvious - the lid doesn't fit or a piece is left over, for example. We also ensure that there is no right or wrong, no winner or loser. For example, in a dice game rather than scoring the highest numbers, each roll produces a different outcome all "equal".
Suppose that the activity is setting the table. You might start by taking out the appropriate number of each piece of cutlery from the drawer so that the person with dementia doesn't have to figure that out for themselves. You may decide to sort the cutlery into knives, forks and spoons, or to sort the cutlery into place settings because you think that will more likely lead to success. Because you laid out the correct number of pieces in advance, if something is left over that is a cue to the person that they have missed a setting and can look for it on their own, making the activity self correcting. If they aren't sure what to do, you can provide feedback by asking them leading questions to help them solve the problem.