Alternative forms of cognitive therapy may help dementia patients more than traditional combinations, consisting of only prescription medication and basic mental exercises.

The Montessori educational system, to date largely implemented primarily in early childhood education, is being explored as a possible means of grounding dementia patients; giving them a social, interactive environment that can simultaneously soothe them and encourage active mental engagement.

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Montessori Education Theory

The Montessori method began as an educational approach for children, mostly between ages two and six. The method involves several environmental and instructional conditions, promoting successful psychological development and effective learning. Some of the principles of the Montessori method include:

  • Classrooms with children of different ages
  • Freedom that allows students to choose their own activities (from a determined range of possible options)
  • Constructed blocks of “work time" that are uninterrupted
  • “Discovery education," which encourages learning through directly working and playing, rather than stagnant instruction
  • A prepared environment that features beauty, harmony, cleanliness, order, an arrangement that encourages movement and activity and only materials that lead to imagination and mental development

Using The Montessori Method For Patients With Dementia

The Montessori educative method was originally created exclusively for developing students, but it has recently been implemented as a form of cognitive therapy for patients with dementia. The environmental conditions and unique materials allow patients to fully utilize each of their five senses, and to actively engage their minds.

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This peaceful and engaging external stimulation is used as a means of reconnecting dementia patients with reality, and promoting feelings of confidence and security while reducing anger, frustration and irritability.

The positive environment is meant to stimulate mood, and the creative activities like artistry and making music serve as a form of brain exercise that can delay symptoms from worsening, and keep a patient grounded. Being in a collaborative setting is also thought to be beneficial—dementia patients often engage in this environment as a group, and are able to share thoughts and experiences with others.

Effectiveness And Possible Future

The Montessori method has been demonstrated and accepted as an effective educational method for children. However, there have been few scientific studies implemented to gauge the hard evidence that it is an effective means of treating dementia. The Montessori method has thus far been only informally proven as a helpful method for many patients, in improving mood and preserving attachment to reality. The environmental techniques are becoming more popular in psychiatric circles, as conventional methods appear to be only marginally effective.

While further scientific study is needed to validate these observations, the environmental aspects of the method appear to be helpful in stimulating the mind, and encouraging patients to stay engaged with reality as long as possible.