Losing a loved one years before they actually pass away is a long and difficult journey. Seniors who are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can often remember every minute detail of their childhood but may ask the same question 15 times in 15 minutes as if it’s a new question. This is frustrating for caregivers and loved ones, who may not be able to relate to the person they are now dealing with. Boredom can cause outbursts or behaviours that agitate others, but these behaviours can be minimized, and often eliminated, if the senior is stimulated in a meaningful way.
Enter Montessori Methods for Dementia (MMD), a method of improving the quality of life in seniors and adults suffering from dementia or other brain injuries or trauma. The premise is to offer meaningful activities to people living with dementia to allow them to maintain independence and to enable them to continue living on their own longer.
It is based on Montessori Education, developed by Maria Montessori. She worked with “deficient” children, simplifying each task and ensuring they practised regularly, and found that the so-called deficient children excelled and surpassed their “regular” classmates. For dementia patients, keeping things simple makes even the more complex tasks manageable.
MMD involves creating signs or aids to help them remember how to do certain tasks. For those who cannot dress themselves without help, a poster depicting the process step-by-step might be all that is needed. Cupboards can be labeled so the senior can easily find food. Notes taped to walls can remind seniors to turn off lights or lock doors, tasks that they tend forget.
But MMD goes far beyond teaching everyday tasks, and so do the benefits. Take my client Gladys (not her real name). Her behaviour included counting by rote in the dining room, which made other residents angry, and they yelled at Gladys a lot. I gave her playdough to squeeze and manipulate. I had some balls I asked her to match by touch. I kept stimulating her hands, all the while chatting about mundane things. Then I struck gold. She began to tell me what she was shaping with her playdough, and then had what is called a cascade of memories. She began to talk all about her husband, who would take her and her friends dancing, she in her red shoes and party dress. She then thanked me for my time and told me how I made her feel smart again.
The use of therapy dolls is also effective. Often a baby will calm an agitated senior, and many nursing homes have created a nursery for their residents so that they can rock their babies and/or change them or put them to bed as part of their evening routine. Another helpful tool is giving a senior a job. For instance, Mary could be asked to take attendance every day. Mary will then stop bullying Violet, who cries often for her husband. It can be this simple and yet this effective.
MMD techniques can bring quality back to the lives of seniors with dementia, and more importantly, bring back a little bit of who they really are.
Tammy Day is certified to develop and implement Montessori Care Plans for private home or public facilities. For more information, call 289-251-1162 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.