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.

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