Montessori method brings engagement

A South Australian provider has adopted an approach based on the well-known education method to improve the lives of people with dementia.

A South Australian aged care provider is using a modified version of a well-known education method to improve the lives of people with dementia.

Thirty staff members from ACH Group have been trained in a Montessori-based approach developed by American dementia expert, Dr Cameron Camp, which focuses on talking less and showing, or doing, more.

Program Coordinator, Lenore de la Perrelle says the method has helped people with dementia to maintain independence and engage with the world around them.

“A major component has been looking at where people with dementia lose some of their skills or the initiative to care for themselves; to eat, read, set the table or dress themselves,” she said.

“Dr Camp has identified a number of ‘external memory devices’, as he calls them – or prompts – to help people to remember to perform these everyday activities.

“When a person with dementia starts doing a familiar activity such as setting the table, their ‘muscle memory’ kicks in. They might have to use a template at first with outlines of the knife, fork and plate but after a while they will be able to do it without the placemat.

“It’s like when you have learned how to drive, you don’t think about every single step, you just do it.

“The problem is that people with dementia often can’t initiate an activity and if they find a certain aspect difficult they might not know how to continue.”

ACH Group has also developed techniques to assist people to dress themselves along with a number of easy-to-read books with large print.

“One of our books has a story about the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge,” said Ms de la Perelle.

“It contains factual information that has been put into conversational style and at the bottom of each page there is little prompt to move on to the next reader. So five people can sit there in self-run groups and read through the book.

“There are also discussion books that they talk about and they have really engaged with them. For example, it mentions that 800 homes were demolished in Sydney in the 1930s to build the bridge and no compensation was offered to the owners.

“The book asks: Do you think that was fare? And everyone has a strong opinion. Some of them say, ‘It was the depression and the government couldn’t afford to do that kind of thing,’ but others say it was outrageous.”

ACH Group has implemented the Montessori-based approach at two of its residential aged care facilities and it now plans to introduce the program throughout its services.

Tags: ach, dementia, montessori,

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