Choice is Part of Montessori for Aging and Dementia

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Choice is Part of Montessori for Aging and Dementia

A Montessori environment has different activities and work sitting out on tables and shelves and encourages individuals to decide what to work on each day.  This provides structure, but also gives the person independence, self-esteem and the knowledge that they are respected.

The Montessori for Aging and Dementia philosophy believes that people with dementia should be given every opportunity to make informed choices about their care, leisure time, clothing, food and anything else that affects their life.  Providing choice will be done differently depending on the stage of dementia the person is experiencing.

Below are some examples of different types of choices related to daily tasks. The first choice offers the person with dementia a variety of options, the second choice is simpler and more straightforward.  We hope these examples provide a starting point for you to look at any part of the day or any activity and think of a way to provide choice when you can. Everyone experiences dementia differently.  You may need to try some of the ideas out and see what works best of you.



  • Most options: Provide a closet of 10 selections of clothing for the week, plus options for specialty clothing like going to a fancy dinner or workout clothing.  You can split up these sections with tags on the closet rod such as “Monday-Friday,” “Weekend,” “Workout,” etc. Ask the person to choose from the section that is appropriate.
  • Simplest options: Each day, lay out two outfit options on the bed and let the person choose one.  (It is okay if they then mix and match within those two outfits.)  OR
  • Gather most items such as bottoms, underwear and socks, but then give a choice on one item, such as choosing between two shirts.



  • Most options: Choose two breakfasts, three lunches and five dinners with simple recipes, and the person can make whichever recipe they want for each meal.
  • Simplest options: Provide a meal they like, but allow choice between two different drinks at each meal.


  • Most options: For snacks, create a labeled and contained “Snack Area” in the pantry and in the refrigerator.  In a bin in the pantry and refrigerator, place three to five different snack items to choose from.
  • Simplest options: Choose a simple recipe and set up a work area with already measured ingredients and follow the pattern of putting one ingredient in a bowl, stirring, putting in the next ingredients, stirring, etc. until all ingredients are in, and the ingredients are stirred and ready to eat or bake.


  • Most options: Let the person decide how often to take a shower or a bath.  If you are assisting in bathing, try to observe these rituals and provide choice based around their natural pattern of bathing.  Some people may not want to bathe if we keep insisting that they must wash their hair first and they normally wash their body first.
  • Simplest option: At shower and bathing times, provide choice between two different smelling soaps during the shower or two lotions after the shower.


Daily Schedule

  • Most options: Weekly, go over scheduling of work and other events to learn more about what the person loves to do and how they want to spend their time to help them not overschedule themselves and to be able to notice changes in the amount of events they can handle in a given day or week.
  • Simplest option: Provide a general schedule, but each week or every few days, allow the person to choose between a few activities they would like to do, such as go out to a movie, shop at the farmer’s market, meet friends for coffee, etc.


Having choices allows us to have control over our lives.  It enhances our self-esteem and our dignity.  Please look for both great and small ways every day to enable individuals with dementia to make choices and express preferences about their life.

Pick on idea and try it today.  Let us know how it works!

Jennifer and Katie

By | 2017-08-21T11:48:23+00:00 August 21st, 2017|dementia, Montessori|0 Comments

About the Author:

Jennifer Brush
Jennifer A. Brush, M.A., CCC/SLP has been working for over 20 years to change the face of dementia care in hospitals, assisted living communities, nursing homes and home care. Prior to establishing her own practice, Jennifer served for many years as the Executive Director of IDEAS Institute, a nonprofit organization that improves the lives of older adults through the conduct of applied research. She is an international speaker and recognized speech-language pathologist known for her work in the areas of memory, swallowing, and environmental interventions for people with dementia. She has served as the Principal Investigator on applied research grants that have examined issues pertaining to dementia, hearing impairment, dining, dysphagia, and the long-term care environment. Her research and consulting in the area of environmental modifications has resulted in improved functioning for people with dementia. Jennifer offers interactive and educational presentations and coaching that help clients bridge the gap between current research findings and the care needs of people with dementia. Jennifer Brush is the co-author of four books: Creative Connections in Dementia Care™; I Care; Environment and Communication Assessment Toolkit™ (ECAT) and A Therapy Technique for Improving Memory: Spaced Retrieval. She is the author of Meal Time Matters and Meal Time Matters at Home, training programs that build nursing assistants' and home caregivers' skills related to dining, swallowing disorders, and safe feeding assistance. Jennifer has authored over 25 articles in peer-reviewed journals, served as guest editor of the journals Seminars in Speech and Language and Perspectives in Gerontology, volunteered as Chair of Professional Development in Gerontology for the American Speech Language Hearing Association Special Interest Group, and was an editorial reviewer for Jennifer is a member of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association and the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). Jennifer is honored to be appointed by the Executive Director of AMI to serve as an inaugural member of the Advisory Group for Montessori for Aging and Dementia. This group is responsible for writing the AMI standards for Montessori dementia programs. Jennifer presented her research in the area of dementia at the first international conference for Montessori environments for dementia in Sydney, Australia in 2014, and spoke at the annual AMI meeting in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 2015. She will return to Sydney in November, 2015 to speak about creating supportive environments for the aging.
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