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Montessori and Dementia

Montessori and Dementia

Montessori methods have proven to be a very successful way to teach children for over 100 years. Since the 1990's, these techniques have been used to help people with Alzheimer's and dementia lead a more independent and fulfilling life. The articles in this section describe a little bit about the history of Dr. Montessori, the development of her methods and traditional materials and how they apply to the care of people with dementia.

  1. What is Montessori?

    What is "Montessori"? That's a good question. Try searching the internet and see what you find. You'll find a lot of talk about the Montessori environment, about the benefits of the approach, about nurturing and independence. But you probably won't find a succinct definition of the Montessori approach. In fact, I'm still looking for one!

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  2. Montessori Methods for Dementia

    The look of joy and satisfaction on the face of a person with dementia who has just successfully done something that they no longer thought they were capable of doing is a sight to behold. It would be wonderful if every day could be filled with such moments. Using DementiAbility Methods: The Montessori Way techniques we can make those moments happen more often.

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  3. Dr. Maria Montessori

    Dr. Maria Montessori

    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.

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  4. The Ten Montessori Principles - Montessori Based Dementia Care

    We are big proponents of using the Montessori approach to help people with dementia. Research has shown that Montessori based activities for people with dementia produce more positive effects as measured by increased lengths of active participation and enjoyment than regular activities. Montessori based dementia programming has also been shown to decrease behavior such as agitation and social withdrawal and also lower the levels of fear, anger and anxiety experienced by persons with Alzheimer's and dementia.

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  5. Montessori Principle 1 - Independence

    Montessori Principle 1 - Independence

    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

    What exactly do we mean by “independence”? We aren’t talking about the person with dementia living by themselves, nor even necessarily doing many of life’s daily chores on their own. We are talking about the person being given the opportunity to do as much as they are capable of doing.

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  6. Montessori Principle 2 - Choice

    Montessori Principle 2 - Choice

    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

    Choice is tied closely to the first Montessori principle of independence. A large part of being independent is having the ability to make choices - if a person can’t choose then there is no independence. As adults, we make choices every day of our lives. What clothes to wear, what to eat for lunch, what activities to participate in.

    People with Alzheimer's and dementia are also adults and have been making choices all their lives and it is important that they continue to be allowed to do so. It adds to their self-esteem and allows them to feel more in control of their lives.

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  7. Montessori Principle 3 - Demonstrate

    Montessori Principle 3 - Demonstrate

    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.

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  8. Montessori Principle 4 - Familiar Materials

    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

    An activity is more likely to be successful and more meaningful to someone with Alzheimer's or dementia if it uses materials that are familiar to that person. People are more comfortable around familiar items and will often have an automatic, pleasurable response. I met someone in a facility who had been a carpenter for most of his life. Just by bringing in some hand tools we had a great time together handling the tools and remembering stories. That would have been a meaningless activity (or certainly not as successful) for someone who did not work with those tools for so much of their life. Someone used to knitting or sewing would probably enjoy an activity involving knitting needles, yarn or thread.

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  9. Montessori Principle 5 - Meaningful

    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

    This Montessori principle says that we should introduce activities, roles and routines that are meaningful to the person with dementia. When choosing activities and roles, it is important to take into account the person's interests, former occupation, hobbies, likes and dislikes to help ensure success.

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  10. Montessori Principle 6 - Adapted Materials

    Montessori Principle 6 - Adapted Materials

    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 principle of adapted materials means that rather than simply using something "as is" in an activity, you should consider how it could be best adapted to ensure that the person with Alzheimer's or dementia can be successful using it. A simple example of this is to make sure that all items are free of unnecessary distractions. We've all seen someone with dementia focus on the words on a photo rather than the image itself, or become preoccupied by a sticky spot on the table and we want to avoid these distractions. Make it easy for them to focus on the task at hand.

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