Some exciting new work is being done in the field of Alzheimer’s and dementia care that has linked the much-celebrated Montessori method of teaching children as an effective way for reaching, engaging, and reducing anxiety in individuals living with memory-related diseases. The core tenet of the Montessori method is to consider children’s needs and capabilities in concert with one another. So, in Alzheimer’s and dementia care, blending the knowledge of what people like to do with what they are able to do is proving a successful approach.
For example, Montessori teachers create lessons and activities designed to engage the brain, specifically the senses, which opens greater opportunities for the new information to be stored as long-term memory. Likewise, the Montessori method of caregiving engages the senses to help people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia rediscover the world around them and reconnect with it — and do so in ways that activate long-term memory.
Stimulating physical activities, as well as art and music therapy, are being used as effective tools to help counter the paranoia and the desire to withdraw that advancing dementia often causes. Positive attitudes and personal touch, which are two pillars of the Montessori method, are helping people remember pleasant events of the past and re-experience their associated positive emotions.
Dr. Cameron Camp, one of the pioneers of the Montessori method for Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and a psychologist in applied gerontology says this about the approach: “We want to flip the system on its ear, to change people’s expectations about what people with dementia are capable of. Our job is to allow this person to be present — to help them, wherever they are in the journey of dementia, to be connected with a community and contribute to the best of their ability.”
Simple and pleasurable tasks such as puzzles and games; laying out towels to fold; matching and folding clean socks; safe cooking and baking in a controlled environment — these Montessori-inspired strategies, and more, are proving successful in helping people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia experience the joy of participation and a sense of accomplishment for improving their quality of life.
This blog was originally published on May 21, 2015 and updated in 2023.