Since the early 20th century, educators have used the holistic approach of Montessori methods to help children engage the full range of their senses in the learning process. Recently, therapists and caregivers have realized that Montessori principles can be effective in connecting with Alzheimer’s patients, stimulating their memories and rebuilding their confidence.
Although some have the misconception that people with dementia cannot learn, experimental psychologist Cameron Camp points out that the Montessori method allows them to build on retained skills to improve the quality of their lives.
Principles of the Montessori method include performing guided activities in small groups, allowing a limited range of freedom, having materials arranged and available, and taking advantage of sensitive periods when people are more conducive to learning. Additionally, Montessori activities engage as many senses as possible, using all five senses to stimulate cognitive function.
With Alzheimer’s patients, this may involve offering materials that prompt people to relive old memories, which gives them a feeling of peace and relaxation. It has also proved beneficial to have patients attempt simple creative work with blocks, paints, clay, puzzles and flower arrangements.
As Alzheimer’s disease advances, many patients become withdrawn and fearful. Montessori activities bring them out of themselves and give them feelings of accomplishment. The Montessori approach can reengage and stimulate certain types of motor memories having to do with simple life skills through games that mimic repetitive activities.
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The method is most effective when caregivers have an opportunity to form relationships with patients, support their feelings of self-worth, allow them to express themselves, and maintain a sense of order. Although not all Alzheimer’s patients respond in the same way, the techniques open up opportunities for joyful, meaningful activities.Whizzco