Creating meaningful routines, organizing activities based on interests and building a supportive environment with memory cues is the framework for a Grand Rapids, MI, life plan community implementing the Montessori Method with its memory care residents.

Clark Retirement participated in a research project in 2018 involving the Montessori for Dementia and Aging program at its Franklin assisted living memory care community. After experiencing success, the provider expanded the program to its Keller Lake skilled nursing and assisted living campus. The community trained its staff as certified Montessori practitioners to create a person-centered program that emphasizes resident choice, independence and preservation of self-worth. 

Chris Simons, Clark Retirement’s dementia and life enrichment consultant, told McKnight’s Senior Living she’s seen a reduction in falls and improvement in quality of life for residents, as well as increased family satisfaction, since adopting the Montessori program.

Other providers considering adopting the Montessori Method need to commit to training, however, she said.

“There has to be a commitment from the top down,” Simons said. “It’s one of the better programs I’ve ever seen. It really makes a difference.”

The international program combines dementia care best practices with a Montessori philosophy. The program, being used by 50 to 60 residents, is designed to enhance independence and quality of life for people living with dementia by creating an environment in which they can succeed. As a result, older adults are empowered to care for themselves and others, making contributions to their community and engaging in meaningful activities.

Some of the Montessori principles include creating a supportive environment, offering independence, focusing on meaningful activities and respecting others.

Among the Montessori practices Clark incorporated into its memory care program include using green and white name badges (green is the last color people living with dementia lose the ability to see), creating a sense of community, assigning residents meaningful roles to contribute to their community, offering gardening activities, updating signage to encourage engagement, and implementing wayfinding cues on posters to help residents find their way.

Heritage Senior Communities previously adopted the model, creating a Portraits Program for memory care residents. The provider shared an overview of its program during a 2017 McKnight’s Senior Living webinar