How Montessori is Changing the Way One Community Supports Person-Centered Living

//How Montessori is Changing the Way One Community Supports Person-Centered Living

How Montessori is Changing the Way One Community Supports Person-Centered Living

The Life Enrichment staff at Clark Retirement in Grand Rapids has been working step by step to implement the Montessori philosophy of life.  A big part of that process has involved collaborating the with residents and their families to identify meaningful roles that give individuals a chance to contribute to the community and help others.  I am sharing a case study, written by one of the staff, to provide ideas for taking steps to empower individuals with dementia to give to others.

“I discussed M.G.’s hobbies and interests with her in order to find an activity or roles in which she could serve as a leader. M.G. is a creative person who enjoys painting, card making and volunteering to help others. While talking with her, I learned that M.G. enjoys making people feel special. Despite having dementia, she is able to initiate activities on her own and is able to leave the care area independently and walk safely to other parts of the building. Together, we identified two new roles to help M.G. to maintain a life with purpose.

First, M.G. decided to volunteer with another resident who also enjoys painting and is creative to make birthday cards for all the residents in assisted living. M.G. will then be in charge of distributing the cards to the residents on their birthdays.

The purpose of this activity is to provide M.G. with a creative opportunity to give to residents, help other residents feel special, to engage in preferred activity, and to assist a fellow resident with memory loss to engage in preferred activity.

I provided M.G. with a list of resident birthdays for the month of August so that she knows who has a birthday and how many cards to make. I provided M.G. with water color paper (per her preference) cut into cards.

Second, I assisted M.G. recognized a need for more volunteers in the community store on the weekends and wanted to fill that void. M.G. used to work in a gift shop and enjoyed the work. I worked with the Volunteer Coordinator to establish a consistent schedule for M.G. to volunteer as well as another volunteer partner that she could shadow while learning the role. I also coordinated between the resident and the Volunteer Coordinator to set up the resident’s training. I wrote M.G.’s schedule on a calendar and highlighted the dates. There is also a person without dementia who volunteers with M.G. who provides support and assistance as needed. Follow is an example of the instruction sheet created and shared with staff to support M.G. is this role.

 Community Store Role Instruction Sheet

Role: Volunteering in Clark Mini Mart

When: Every other Saturday from 2 PM to 4 PM

Where: Mini Mart

Materials Needed: Volunteer Schedule

Purpose of Activity

  1. Promote self-esteem
  2. Provide opportunity to engage in previously loved role, now current role
  3. Provide opportunity for socialization and cognitive stimulation with other residents similar in cognitive abilities

Preparation for the Role

  1. G. attended a training session and volunteer orientation with the Volunteer Coordinator to prepare for role.
  2. Provide monthly schedule for M.G. with dates and times of volunteering highlighted.
  3. Post M.G.’s volunteer schedule in the nursing office so weekend staff are aware of her schedule.
  4. Remind M.G. the day before she is scheduled to volunteer.

Participating in the Role

  1. Staff to remind M.G. the morning of the day when she is scheduled to volunteer.
  2. Staff assist M.G. with leaving the care area when it is time for her to volunteer. M.G. does not need any assistance with way finding to the Mini Mart.
  3. An Independent Living Resident volunteers in the Mini Mart at the same time as M.G., so she can provide assistance to M.G. as needed.
  4. G. runs the cash register, writes purchase tickets, stocks shelves and assists shoppers as needed.
  5. G. and Independent Living Resident close the Mini Mart and lock doors when finished.


  1. As M.G. grows into her role, she can volunteer independently without another resident assisting her if desired.


By | 2017-10-11T14:59:11+00:00 October 11th, 2017|Uncategorized|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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