Henna Jalovaara
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Practitioner Symposium Spotlight: Henna Jalovaara

We had the privilege of having Henna Jalovaara, the founding member of Muisti Montessori, the Finnish Montessori for Dementia Association, speak at our symposium. Henna is an OT in a non-profit care home in Helsinki, Finland. This care home piloted Montessori in two of its eight households. During her presentation, Henna shared both the challenges and wins of initiating a Montessori program in her care community.

Henna’s method of introducing the program was caring yet strategic. It began with a leadership team that was committed to creating a change within the care community. In doing so, there was a plan to make changes slowly and sustainably over time, which meant beginning the changes in two of the eight households. It started with staff education, consideration for implementation plans and addition of rehabilitation staff (PT and OT).

Henna shared examples of the successes and challenges she faces on a daily basis; and why you never stop moving toward the life the elders should be allowed. She reminded us that though we are excited and enthusiastic to see the elders engaged and participating in activities and roles within the care community, anyone who begins this process may be met with resistance. What Henna did, was listen and understand the barriers, while also showcasing successes that the community was having. One example was with creation and implementation of memory books. Though staff needed to slow down to help with creation and to listen and take time to share with the elders, the elders demonstrated pride and excitement to share their history with others.

In developing this new environment, Henna and her team established new relationships and began sharing resources. They were able to borrow Montessori materials that were interest appropriate for the elders at this community, from a nearby Montessori school. The team was able to look at spaces and recognize that there was clutter and that to fit Montessori, less meant more. The clutter needed to be replaced with open and tidy areas and shelves.

Memory Books: Elders enjoy creating, looking at, and sharing
Tidy Montessori Area: Montessori materials on shelves free of clutter

As she ended her presentation to us, she stated that elders were enjoying their new home. They were proud of it and when one of the elders was unexpectedly hospitalized, she left behind the role of caring for the plants. She was so concerned that while she was gone, she asked that one of the hospital staff check with the care community to find out how the plants were doing!

Roles and Activities: Elder caring for the plants
Roles and Activities: Elders thrive with a sense of purpose

Henna inspired us with her lessons learned: the importance of training for staff, preparing the environment, and having a committed core team. She reminded us that this work is a marathon, not a race.

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