Montessori Programming for Dementia is not new to long-term care.  The Life Enrichment department has been including Montessori programming on the monthly activity calendar for many years.

What is new is that employees in all departments are receiving the training and being offered education on how to apply Montessori interventions into their respective daily routines.  The goals of this initiative: Improving quality of life for our residents, as well as caregiver satisfaction for staff, volunteers and family members.  Throughout the years many staff and families have asked the question, “What exactly is Montessori?”   Unfortunately, Montessori has been misunderstood as an activity, when in reality it is a philosophy of care that all staff are able to tap into.

Because dementia is a progressive chronic disease, it slowly strips away one’s ability to function in a number of capacities.   Montessori focuses on identifying each residents remaining social, physical, cognitive, and/or spiritual ability and engaging them in meaningful “activity” that they are able to succeed in.  Activity refers to any task, action or process in this case, not necessarily with a recreation or leisure focus.  For example, a resident with dementia may not be able to correctly measure ingredients or be able to follow the step by step directions in order to make a cake.  However, a former baker or perhaps homemaker could still be able to pour pre-measured ingredients into a bowl, stir the ingredients and wipe the counter down and derive great pleasure assisting with tasks matched with their abilities and personal history.

Boredom and loneliness are the two top causes of responsive behaviours in long-term care.  Residents are most content and at ease when engaged in meaningful activity, however, finding activities that are suitable for a resident with dementia can also be challenging.  Traditional programs like bingo and bowling just don’t work for many residents who require cuing and prompting to actively participate.   We require all staff involving more residents in meaningful activities and tasks outside of the larger Life Enrichment group programs.

Montessori programming is evidence-based and well researched.  Cameron Camp, a US dementia researcher discovered that principals first used by Maria Montessori working with autistic and cognitively disabled children could successfully be applied to those diagnosed with dementia.  BSO (Behavioural Support Ontario) is currently utilizing many Montessori interventions in long-term care across Ontario.

“Montessori is just another tool in our bag of tricks that can assist in a difficult situation to enable all staff to complete assignments with greater ease and keep residents engaged in tasks they can succeed in.  For all these reasons Montessori corners have been set up to provide staff, volunteers and families the education and resources to make it a win-win situation!” stated Jo-Anne Palkovits, Administrator.

Montessori photo