Editor’s Note: This blog was first posted in 2020 and updated in 2023 with additional resources for those needing memory care.
Team members from The Residence at Timber Pines in Spring Hill, Florida, have seen firsthand how impactful adopting the Montessori Inspired Lifestyle® approach of care has been on residents. They’ve seen residents have a renewed sense of purpose, dignity, and respect from their peers. Largely, this is due to team members talking with residents, not as a caregiver to a resident, but as family, as a community.
WHAT IS MONTESSORI INSPIRED LIFESTYLE®?
“Montessori originally was an educational system developed by a physician, Maria Montessori. She decided that the best way to enable and educate was to create individuals who were self-sufficient, confident, and able to make decisions about their own lives,” explains Dr. Cameron Camp, founder of the Center for Applied Research in Dementia.
This concept is now widely practiced in school settings and has more recently been applied to memory care. Montessori Inspired Lifestyle® is a positive approach to providing care for adults living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and allows residents to focus on their individual strengths and engage in meaningful activities.
“I began to look at how to train older adults to remember things. I had to find a way to enable persons with dementia to learn and remember new things and at exactly the same time, my children started at a Montessori school and the dots just connected immediately. This was the way forward,” said Dr. Camp.
Montessori is an educational method based on rehabilitation techniques and sound human values that has translated to great success for those with memory loss, regardless of where they are on the dementia journey.
“The Montessori approach emphasizes learning by doing and this is what happens in persons with dementia — they learn through practice, but they also have all this experience, decades of life to draw upon. There's this wealth of potential in these persons if we care to look for it,” said Dr. Camp.
Montessori Inspired Lifestyle® is based on values of respect, dignity and equality. Its key principles are rooted in giving people choices, giving them the opportunity to use their strengths instead of their weaknesses, recognizing the individual for who they are, and enabling them to be the best person they can be.
“I believe in it totally, because I've seen it work. I've talked to family members who say things like, ‘I did not know that they [referring to a loved one] could still do these things’,” said Dr. Camp.
HOW MONTESSORI REDEFINES THE ROLE OF A CAREGIVER
“Maria Montessori had a phrase. She said, when the environment supports the person and enables them to use their abilities and diminish their disabilities, a process comes into the world. And she called it ‘normalization.’ It is our duty to create normalizing environments for persons with dementia,” said Dr. Camp.
Montessori Inspired Lifestyle® allows memory care residents to focus on their individual strengths. It improves their overall quality of life by giving control back to the individual whenever possible.
“You want to do everything for them because you are a caregiver, but ultimately, it's better for them to make those first steps and to take a chance. It is here when you can see their potential,” said the life enrichment coordinator in the Pearls of Life® memory care neighborhood at The Residence of Timber Pines.
Montessori Inspired Lifestyle® is a way of living. Therefore, it’s not solely applied during scheduled community activities. Every team member–caregiver or non-caregiver–is trained to encourage and empower residents throughout the day to make choices so that they feel connected to their community.
Whether it be offering real-time meal choices, allowing residents to take care of the community garden, or even giving them the freedom to help team members tidy up after a group activity – giving memory care residents the opportunity to take part in their community gives them a greater sense of purpose.
“It's about everyone being in a relationship. And so the truth of the matter is, people in housekeeping, for example, may know many things about residents that other staff don't know. It provides incredibly useful information that may only come from that source, but also validates the worth of that staff member and their work and their department,” said Dr. Camp.
THE MONTESSORI INSPIRED LIFESTYLE® PLEDGE
Team members in the Pearls of Life® memory care neighborhoods take the Montessori Inspired Lifestyle® pledge at the end of their training.
- I will work to create a place where I would want to live
- I will remember that I am a guest in the home of my residents
- I will treat everyone I meet with respect, dignity, and equality
- I will remember that I must earn the trust of others, and that they must learn to trust me
- I will apply the Montessori principles in everything that I do
- I will treat everyone I meet the way I wish to be treated
“Everyone wants to live like this. This is not about dementia care. This is about a way of living for human beings. That's a good life,” said Dr. Camp. “It is my hope that at some point in the future this will become the standard for memory care. Because it has to be.”
Team members from The Residence at Time Pines have seen how the Pearls of Life® memory care neighborhoods have flourished since adopting the Montessori Inspired Lifestyle®. When visiting the residency, Dr. Camp agreed and shared that the lifestyle is ”...about living well. And that is an amazing gift to be able to give. It just blows me away when I see it.”
Several of The Goodman Group’s managed communities that offer Pearls of Life® memory care neighborhoods have been recognized as Montessori Inspired Lifestyle® Credentialed Communities. Achieving this credential demonstrates that the managed community has established outstanding efforts to improve the quality of life for memory care residents through the values and principles embodied in the Montessori Inspired Lifestyle® approach of care.