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You have selected an activity, made sure that it is suitable for the person and that it meets the requirements of a proper Montessori dementia activity. What next?
Of most importance is your mindset. You have to be ready to coach the person, observe how they handle the tasks involved, give them the time they need to complete the tasks, and celebrate their successes with them. If everything comes together, if your hard work pays off, you will be rewarded beyond your expectations with the moment of accomplishment that you will share with together.
It isn't easy to care for someone with dementia. Whether that person is your spouse, parent, relative or friend, the challenges are there. If you are the primary caregiver, it's that much more difficult. To make it easier for you, and more meaningful for the person, it's important that you understand as much as you can about the disease and what you can do to help. You can't talk to the person in the same way, you can't do the same activities, you can't work and play together the way you used to. But there is a lot that you can do to make their life more fulfilling.
In our "The Box is Ticked" article, we talk about the importance of drawing on a person’s past interests to engage the person, even if they can no longer do the activity. In this article, we talk about knitting for people with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Knitting is a popular pastime but often family doesn’t even bother to check this box on the Interests Checklist because they have decided that the person can no longer complete the knitting projects that they were able to do in the past. That may be true, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find ways to tap into the person’s interest to enable them to re-connect with something that was pleasurable for them.
Dr. Maria Montessori was a remarkable woman. She was born on August 31, 1870 in Italy, a time when it was not considered appropriate for a woman to study medicine. She persevered and was one of the first woman physicians in Italy.
Dr. Montessori's medical practice was in pediatrics and psychiatry, working with children with intellectual disabilities. In order to aid her in her practise, Dr. Montessori studied education and developed a method to teach her patients to read and write. She achieved extraordinary results, so extraordinary in fact that her challenged patients tested on par with children of the same age attending the mainstream school.
When you present an activity to someone with Alzheimer's or dementia, it doesn't always work out exactly as expected. Sometimes that doesn't matter. You may have expected the person to sort the red cards to the left and the black cards to the right but they did it the other way around. That's not a problem. They are still handling the cards which helps with dexterity and they are sorting the cards which helps with cognitive skills. Over time you can coach them to do it the "correct" way, but it really doesn't matter.
Group activities for people with Alzheimer's and dementia play a major role in most facilities. What activity calendar would be complete without bingo, Wii bowling, bake groups, bean bag toss, and other traditional activities. They offer the opportunity to engage a number of clients at the same time, and provide them with social interaction. They are well liked by the clients. By applying the Montessori principles, they can be made even better.
Most care professionals agree, and studies support, that small group programming is more effective for people with dementia than large group activities. Unfortunately the reality of limited resources in a facility mean that while everyone recognizes the benefits of providing activities for small groups, more residents can be reached through larger activities and those tend to dominate the monthly schedule.
Here’s a way to start adding simple, short, small group activities for your dementia patients into your schedule and take advantage of the benefits without taking up too much time. In fact, by building these activities into an established routine, they can be taken over by other staff or volunteers. These activities take no more than 15 to 20 minutes. They require little preparation, are simple to do and easy to present. Portering requirements are minimal because the activity is done on the unit with only a few residents, ideally those that are already out of their rooms and ready to participate.
In our "The Box is Ticked" article, we talk about the importance of drawing on a person’s past interests to engage the person, even if they can no longer do the activity. In this article, we talk about gardening for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Many caregivers think that the best, or only way to capitalize on a person’s interest in gardening is to get out the gardening tools, seeds and fertilizer and start planting. In fact, there are a lot of better ways to use someone’s interest in gardening to engage them in meaningful activity. After all, the goal is not to have a beautiful or bountiful garden, it is to engage the person with dementia in an enjoyable and meaningful way.
That's a phrase that anyone who has taken the "DementiAbility Methods: The Montessori Way" workshop is familiar with.
Research shows that the performance of people with dementia improves with repetition. They may not recall having done the activity before, but they do it better.
What this means is that repetition is good. The first time a person with dementia is exposed to an activity, they likely will not be able to complete it from start to finish. That's not unexpected and should not be of concern. The first time the person is introduced to the materials they are becoming familiar with the activity and components and with proper direction they will associate it with positive emotions. With each further exposure, they will build on their past success and become more engaged in the activity.
Many of us enjoy going to the movies as an easy and fun night out. For someone with Alzheimer's or dementia, the fun night out may become less enjoyable and they may start to turn down the idea. The person may not know exactly what they find uncomfortable, but they know that it is not as much fun as it once was. Some of the factors may include