American Montessori expert Dr. Cameron Camp has developed a new approach to caring for persons living with dementia. This new approach is known as The Montessori Inspired Lifestyle ® (MIL). It is based on the philosophy and methods of Dr. Maria Montessori, the first female M.D. in Italy and world-renowned educator.
“Within this new paradigm, abilities, interests, and preferences will be respected, encouraged and maximized. Providing choice throughout the day is central to all interactions.” Said Dr. Camp “Central to MIL is the creation of meaningful activities and social roles within the context of a community. This helps to ensure that residents are engaged in life, have a feeling of belonging, have a sense of purpose, have access to meaningful activity, and can have a sense of control and independence.”
Having done a 3 week course with Omnicare Alliance to learn about Montessori and apply the principles and methods in her own home where she resides with her husband who lives with dementia, Susan was blown away by his progress.
“We have a bunch of signs around the house with cartoon pictures for Jim now that ask him questions. ‘Have you taken the bin out?’ or ‘Do you have your house keys?’ she explains “This actually gets him to think and engage with himself which is a big part of learning.” She has realised that if she communicates in a simple way with her husband he will understand and be able to help with chores. Rather than tell him to cut carrots into cubes, for example, she now models instructions, showing him how she wants them cut. He is then perfectly capable of carrying out her request.
The Montessori Method utilises simple, modifiable and practical tasks that utilise everyday items to re-engage individuals and help to retrain skills that may have diminished due to dementia. A person’s abilities are closely tied to their life experiences and passions, and identifying these passions and harnessing them to rekindle and engage a person is the essence of what makes Montessori training and learning effective. For instance, if a woman grew up playing the piano, music may be the key to her learning and engaging, but if she enjoyed gardening instead, then heading outdoors and incorporating seeds and plants into her activities, may be the key in helping her rediscover some old skills.
As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I would love to see this method used in more aged care facilities. With the current strong focus on the quality of care I hope providers are taking note of Dr. Camp’s new approach.