Montessori Blog

The Montessori Approach to Dementia Care

Sherrill Bickmore is St Louis’ Registered Nurse who looks after our home care clients in Victor Harbor. She reviews their healthcare plans, provides medical and clinical support at home, and is especially passionate about caring for those with dementia who choose to continue living at home.

In this Q&A with Sherrill, she discusses current and new approaches that St Louis is adopting in caring for people who are ageing and/or with dementia. The Montessori approach to aged care is a relatively new program in Australia about developing the whole human, and ensuring that a lifelong love of learning is instilled giving the person a sense of fulfilment and purpose.

As we are never too old and it is never too late to learn something new, this love of learning can remain with us well into our older years, or even be re-instilled if we have lost it.

What is the Montessori approach to learning?

“The Montessori approach has traditionally been associated with child development with a focus on what people can do, not what they cannot do. However recently, Montessori Principles have been adopted in aged care, providing an environment where people feel respected, heard and valued.

It is a process of care based on dignity, trust, equality and enablement, giving people a purpose and addressing their basic human rights. Their philosophy is based on the statement that “Everything you do for me, you take away from me, “ – whether it is a child or someone with dementia.”

How will this be applied to home care clients in Victor Harbor?

“Already at St Louis we spend time getting to know the person before we start home care, talking with them, their family and friends so that we understand their history, what they like doing and what they are good at. We then ensure their home environment is set up to nurture and support them as individuals, enabling them to be as independent as possible, and thereby giving them a sense of purpose and value.

If people feel safe, comfortable and empowered in their own homes, they can remain there possibly for the rest of their lives without ever having to enter a residential aged care facility. This is the outcome we aim for.

As we train our staff in the Montessori approach, we will gradually adopt parts of this philosophy and incorporate it into our home care plans. We will be able to say more about the Montessori approach as we develop it further but for now, we have an excellent foundation to build upon.”

How will it benefit residents and clients of St Louis?

“People feel more valued, that they still have a place in this world, whether they are at home or in residential aged care.

In our communities, people with dementia get stigmatised and this is sad for everyone, young and old. It disempowers people and we don’t have to do this. All we need to do is just have some patience, get them engaged in conversation, the world around them, and believe in them. The Montessori principles are aligned with this approach.

The home care team at Victor Harbor already has a people-centred approach to our care programs, with an active social component and many outings in the community. There are also businesses in Victor Harbor that have a “dementia friendly” policy, for example Terry White Chemists, and we hope more will follow this lead.”

What else would you like to say about helping people with dementia?

“If you are caring for someone with dementia, take the approach of “watch me do what I do” – demonstrate, listen more, don’t interrupt and guide them. The Montessori approach takes this one step further with activities and programs intended to help people with dementia feel a sense of deeper empowerment.

People with dementia often have responsibilities taken away from them. At St Louis however, we believe we need to weigh the risk versus reward, does the goal outweigh the risk? For example, our clients who have dementia may have forgotten how to peel the vegetables, but by demonstrating how it is done, they remember and can then do it themselves. In aged care, it is all too common to see that type of responsibility being taken away from people in case they hurt themselves. But the more we take away, the less valued they feel as humans.

It’s not about exclusion or ostracising either, this is no good for anyone, it is about inclusion. Therefore it is not “us and them, it is all about we”. If we want dementia friendly communities, we must all get to a stage where we can help and support people in the community with dementia, leaving our own frustration out of the equation.”

Call the St Louis Home Care Team in Victor Harbor to find out more

For more information about your home care options in Victor Harbor, call the St Louis local home care team on 8552 1481. We will also keep you informed about our Montessori Aged Care programs as they develop in Victor Harbor. You can visit our home care website here and download a free home care information kit.

For further reading about dementia, have a look at our blog Dementia Care – A Caregiver’s 10 Commandments.