Montessori Method for those with dementia may have merit

Two of my granddaughters attend a school that has embraced the Montessori Method of teaching. They enjoy learning in an environment that provides a variety of opportunities as well as the freedom to engage in activities that they find both rewarding and challenging.

The term, ‘Montossori’ comes from a teaching method developed early in the 20th century by Dr. Maria Montessori while she was on a quest to find a method designed for teaching students in a safe and secure setting that allowed children to thrive.

“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”
—Dr. Maria Montessori, MD

According to Enlivant.com: The Montessori Method places an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a person’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.

How does Montessori work for older folks

So, how does that work for older folks with dementia? Individuality is the key ingredient when it comes to implementing Montessori Method. Everyone is different. We can know we are on the right track if the activities make our loved one happy. We don’t want them to become frustrated and anxious. It’s best if they try to do what they enjoy combined with what they able to do.


Mama loved to fold towels, warm from the dryer .

My Mama enjoyed her own, unique set of activities. I shared in a previous post, “What Can She Do?” how much she enjoyed folding towels. She loved it when I gave her an armful of warm towels from the dryer. She would hug them and smile. After a while, her automatic folding response would kick in, and she would begin folding them. She found so much joy in it that I would occasionally pull three or four clean towels out of the linen closet and toss them into the dryer to warm them up for her.

We also liked playing ‘two-square’. She would sit on the couch, and I would gently bounce my exercise ball to her. She caught it and bounced it back to me. On a good day, we would play for twenty minutes or so.

Also, I discovered that sometimes Mama would spontaneously do something if given the opportunity. For example, if I told her to put her shoes and socks on, she would just give me a blank look. But, if I handed her a pair of socks without saying anything, she put them on. Once her socks were on, I would place her shoes on the floor next to her feet. I believe the big picture here is that a cookie-cutter approach to care-giving is not always the best way to care for our loved one. It seemed to trigger a memory that helped know her understand to put them on.

Mama had a very analytical brain that still functioned to some degree in spite of dementia. She loved to sort items, so I would set a small container of different colored beads along with an ice cube tray on the table in front of her. As soon as I set it down, she automatically began sorting out the beads according to color.

The following link contains ideas to help implementing Montessori Method in your own situation, “Here are seven simple ways to integrate the Montessori Method for dementia patients”. 

Abilities changed over time as dementia robbed the bits and pieces of Mama’s brain. We had to be strategic, patient and choose our battles. If she didn’t feel like singing, that was okay, but wearing shoes was a requirement. We continued to move forward on a daily basis with a goal to help her experience as much joy as possible in the process.

Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “FinishingWell: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama.  May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy on your own, unique journey.

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