You may have heard of the Montessori Method for children, but did you know that this method can also be beneficial for those experiencing memory loss? Clark Retirement is the first Life Plan Community in the United States to adopt the Montessori for Dementia and Aging program. Staff underwent intensive training to become certified Montessori practitioners.
Using the Montessori Method, Clark focuses on creating meaningful routines, activities based on interests and building a supportive environment with memory cues for our residents.
What are the Montessori principles?
The Montessori Method was developed over 100 years ago by Dr. Maria Montessori. She developed a new approach to education that focused on creating a safe, secure and controlled environment where students with learning differences could thrive.
This method has proven to be successful in dementia care. Some principles include:
- Creating a supportive environment: The key is a small and manageable environment that also is clutter-free to promote a feeling of safety.
- Independence: Dr. Maria Montessori is famously quoted as saying, “Everything you do for me; you take away from me.” Montessori principles center around as much independence as possible. People with dementia are capable of many tasks and can recover old skills while also acquiring new ones.
- Meaningful activity: It’s important to focus on activities that are meaningful to that person and not just “busy work.” Find ways to focus on things that your loved one has always loved doing, like gardening or drawing.
- Respect: The Montessori philosophy centers around respect toward the person experiencing memory loss at all times. This means respecting the person’s current perception, even if it’s wrong, and leading with kindness, rather than focusing on what’s incorrect.
How Clark is incorporating Montessori into memory care
At Clark, the Memory Care program is person-centered and emphasizes resident choice, independence and preserves the self-worth of all residents. A key factor of this program is giving residents a sense of purpose by creating an environment that supports and empowers older adults to be as independent as possible.
Some Montessori practices at Clark include:
- Using green and white name badges: Green is the last color dementia patients lose the ability to see, so green is a good color for caregivers to wear. First names only are on badges to make it easier for residents to call everyone by name and feel a mutual level of respect.
- Creating a sense of community between residents: A resident might be working on an activity, like sorting seashells, and another joins because it looks interesting.
- Giving residents activities to help with things such as setting the table, handing out salads during mealtime or folding clothes.
- Gardening activities: Residents can help design a flowerpot and have a routine of watering plants.
- Activity areas are visually organized with the appropriate level of stimulation and interesting things to do for individuals.
- The addition of signs such as “please put the puzzle together” or “please enjoy a snack” act as a cue for residents to engage in activities.
- Wayfinding cues on posters help residents find their way.
- Room signs include a picture of themselves that they choose and identify with.
Memory Care is available at our Keller Lake community, 2499 Forest Hill Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, and Franklin community, 1551 Franklin St. SE, Grand Rapids.
If you think your loved one could benefit from Memory Care with a Montessori approach, please contact a Senior Living Advisor (616) 278-6520 or visit clarkretirement.org.