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Helping residents tap their full potential

Outcomes for residents with dementia living in a Montessori environment include improved self-esteem and more independence, says an expert in Montessori-based care models.

People living with dementia have a lot of untapped potential, says aged care Montessorian Sue Mark.

In her role at Montessori Ageing Support Services, Ms Mark provides training and support to aged care organisations working towards creating Montessori environments that aim to bring out this potential.

“We tend to think that people who live with dementia are unable to learn but Montessori shows that people living with dementia can learn,” Ms Mark told Australian Ageing Agenda ahead of her appearance at the upcoming Active Ageing Conference 2017.

Sue Mark

“They may not remember that they learn but we work on the premise that the more they do it, the better they get.”

Ms Mark said the goal within Montessori was to work with the disability and not create excess disability.

This is done by looking for the strengths in people who live with dementia, and it is done continually as abilities change, she said.

“Montessori focuses on the prepared environment so that if the environment is prepared to support your strengths then you are able to function at a much higher level.”

For a person living with dementia who is unable to initiate activities, prompts can help, she said.

“For example, if you have a jug of water and glasses on a table, someone who lives with dementia will walk straight passed that time and time again,” Ms Mark said.

“Based on ensuring a person is still able to read, you would put a sign there that says ‘Please pour yourself a glass of water’. You will find that people will walk passed and do that.”

A person without dementia would know a jug of water and a glass indicated they could have a drink if they wished, but a person with dementia might be unable to make that connection, Ms Mark said.

A Montessori activity

However, if the processes needed to teach someone with dementia how to perform a task are followed it can help them make the connections, she said.

Outcomes for residents with dementia living in a Montessori environment include improved self-esteem and more independence, which allow them to function at a higher level for a longer period of time, Ms Mark said.

At the Active Ageing Conference Ms Mark is facilitating an interactive session where participants can understand how Montessori is used in different settings and develop activities for a particular environment.

“We will develop the activities so people can understand the importance of roles and the importance of the prepared environment within Montessori.”

The Active Ageing Conference 2017, hosted by Australian Ageing Agenda and Community Care Review, takes place on 30 August at Bayview Eden Melbourne.

Click here to register

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