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St. Joseph's Villa expands Montessori education for residents with dementia

Montessori used to help residents maintain abilities longer
Sudbury's St. Joseph's Villa long-term care home is expanding its use of Montessori education to help residents with dementia. File photo.

Montessori education if often associated with special needs children, but its techniques have also proven effective at helping older adults with dementia.

Angela Gilchrist, the program co-ordinator with Sudbury's St. Joseph's Villa long-term care home, said Montessori techniques have been used to help seniors with dementia for 20 years.

St. Joseph's Villa has used the techniques since 2003, through its recreational programming.

“We set them up with personalized programs that can help them maintain their abilities for as long as possible through their journey with dementia,” Gilchrist.

Dementia can rob a person of their ability to live independently and continue activities they once enjoyed.

Through Montessori techniques Gilchrist and her colleagues can help them maintain those abilities longer.

She said one resident who loved gardening could no longer do all the work required to tend for the gardens at the long-term care home.

While St. Joseph's Villa has a gardening program, she was not able to participate due to her dementia.

To help her take part in the program, staff set her up in a room with some calming music, and prepared a bag of soil for her to clean.

She went through the soil and removed black and white rocks – placing them in plates identified for each colour.

“For this one individual it had purpose because it was getting her hands back into the dirt, Gilchrist said.

Staff noticed a positive change in the resident while she cleaned the soil so that other residents could use it to plant flowers.

While only St. Joseph's Villa's recreational staff were trained to use Montessori training, the long-term care home is now extending training to all employees.

Five staff members, including two registered nurses, a registered practical nurse and a personal support worker received training from Montessori expert Gail Elliot last fall. They have in turn show the techniques to other staff members.

Staff at St. Gabriel's Villa in Chelmsford will receive the same training later this year.

Gilchrist said the added emphasis on Montessori education will benefit all residents, and should also help make staff members' jobs easier.