Julie Casey MSW, RSW

Wellness Care Farm

Nourishing Hearts

AAT and Montessori Approach for Dementia

The Montessori Approach for Dementia

The Montessori approach for dementia care is based on the educational philosophies of childhood educator Dr. Maria Montessori. Dr. Cameron Camp discovered that Dr. Montessori’s philosophies and principles could be effectively adapted as an approach for dementia care.

Declarative vs. Procedural Memory

It is important to understand the type of memory that remains with a person’s dementia. Procedural memory includes how to eat, how to dress, or reading. Declarative memory includes family names, how to get to the grocery store, events.  The memory that dementia targets must be addressed in a supportive environment.

Montessori Principles for Dementia

  • The environment is tailored to the person’s unique needs.  
  • Persons with dementia maintain or learn a skill with repetition.  
  • Demonstrate each activity to ensure the person understands what he/she is expected to do.  
  • Activities should enable individuals to be as independent as possible.  
  • People need high self- esteem and the chance to make meaningful contributions to their community.

Putting the Montessori Method into Practice

The Montessori approach focuses on re-discovering and supporting the person behind the dementia. Activities with meaning and purpose are put back into people’s lives, based on their needs, interests, skills and abilities. People with dementia often feel they are always being told what to. They are adults and often do not need to be told, but they do want to be needed and feel useful. Montessori methods help reduce and prevent challenging behaviours associated with dementia. Boredom and loneliness are reduced through activities that embrace roles, routines, and improve self-esteem. When the person isn’t capable of “remembering” important information, the cues should be available in his/her environment. When adopting a montessori approach the first step is to get to know your resident – their history, family, interests, abilities, and activities that help, maintain or improve physical function. What are their strengths?

Hands-on Activities with Animal Assisted Therapy

  • Use a calendar or date book to show the day’s activities instead of repeating or reminding the client of what is happening. Eventually the person will go to the calendar without prompting.  

  • Sort animal collars and leashes by colours, lengths, matching pairs etc.

  • Use photo albums as visual cues for storytelling about past companion pets, animals and farming experiences; this stimulates memory and creating positive feelings.  

  • Fill water buckets and food dishes with an assortment of animal feeds with various textures.

  • Wash animal’s dishes and buckets together. Give the client a towel and they may start to dry the dishes. Repeat by asking for help.  

  • Ask the person to tell you animal stories from their childhood. Write them down and then ask the client to read the stories to a grandchild. This activity is meaningful in creating a family history and helping the person feel needed by his/her family.  

  • Play sorting games with pictures of different animal species and/or breeds. Variations include sorting by colour, garden vegetables and flower seeds, farming tools and equipment.

  • Clean and sort grooming tools.

  • Walking the therapy animals provides exercise to maintain strength, balance, and helps to prevents falls.  

  • Sweep hay and animal feed off pathways and work areas.

  • Combing and cleaning sheared wool.

  • Wrap spun yarn onto spools.

  • Grow a vegetable patch for animal food.

(Adapted from https://www.saintelizabeth.com/getmedia/a1d8aef1-14c3-4fdd-a8d7-9abd065d1782/montessori-approach-for-dementia.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf)