Last week, about 40 Living Branches team members were honored to attend Montessori workshops led by Jennifer Brush, MA, CCC/SLP, founder of Brush Development. Jennifer serves on the Association Montessori International (AMI) Advisory Board for Montessori for Aging and Dementia, and is an award-winning Dementia Educator, author, and international consultant. Currently, she is the only person in the United States teaching this AMI program, and we were so pleased to have her spend a couple days with us!
Implementation of Montessori for Aging and Dementia has three main steps: assessing the senior’s needs and strengths, identifying what he or she enjoys, and empowering him or her to select from options of available activities that give life purpose and meaning.
Ms. Brush explained that the process of helping to assess a person’s abilities begins with a simple reading screening that provides information about one’s ability to see, read, comprehend, and then take action. The resulting behaviors enable the test giver to determine if the person has visual deficits, is able to comprehend the message being communicated, and can do simple physical movements.
Once abilities are understood, the assessor gathers specific information about the individual’s past life roles and hobbies. Then according to Montessori for Aging and Dementia training, the person with dementia is encouraged daily to appropriately and actively participate in activities that he or she enjoys. By repetition, caregivers are able to prompt persons with dementia – in our case, memory care seniors– about what they physically can do combined with what they like to do. Ms. Brush points out that people are identified by their roles, and in many cases, view their purpose by these roles. By training residents’ behavior through repetition, they are empowered to take back key roles and once again partake in activities that return purpose and joy to their lives.
These workshops were organized by Kathleen Roberts, the Living Branches director of dementia care strategy. Kathleen, together with the support of Cathy Quay, clinical educator, is focusing on educating staff, residents, families, and volunteers on dementia. Montessori for Dementia was the third in a series of scheduled learning opportunities for team members to increase our understanding of how to best serve seniors with cognitive impairments. We are looking forward to scheduling more workshops with Ms. Brush in the future, to enable us to successfully implement the Montessori for Aging and Dementia methodology at Living Branches.