American Montessori expert, Dr Cameron Camp, Director of Research and Development at the Centre for Applied Research in Dementia, was in Australia during March for a series of sold-out master classes on the holistic engagement of people living with dementia.
The workshops, which were hosted by Dementia Australia, took place in Brisbane and Sydney, and were attended by professionals providing support to people living with younger onset dementia and their carers. A total of 85 people attended across the two days.
Speaking ahead of the events, internationally-known research scientist in the field of ageing Dr Camp said we look at dementia as a form of disability rather than as a disease.
“When you focus on dementia as a disease, then you’re focusing on deficits. Our approach is – what can we do to help people living with dementia?” Dr Camp said.
The Montessori technique is widely recognised as an excellent non-pharmacological intervention and an effective means of better engaging people living with dementia.
In a 2016 study published in the Advances in Ageing Research Journal, Dr Camp found that participants of a Montessori program showed improvement in some activities such as being able to feed themselves. They also decreased their use of antipsychotics, antidepressants and sleeping pills.
Dementia Australia’s Centre for Dementia Learning Director Dr David Sykes said it was exciting that the workshops were in such high demand.
“Maria Montessori’s philosophy was that every human being has the right to be treated with respect and dignity, to have a meaningful role in a community and to contribute to the best of their abilities,” Dr Sykes said.
The Montessori approach is used to maximise the capacity of the person by assessing and incorporating each person’s stage of development through creating cognitive ramps to accommodate and engage the person living with dementia.
By creating opportunities for people living with dementia to engage in meaningful activities, and matching these with their abilities, they can maintain a level of autonomy and dignity in continuing to make valuable contributions to the community.
Through focusing on the strengths and remaining abilities of people living with dementia, and matching these with their interest in specific activities, they can continue to lead meaningful and rewarding lives.
Dr Sykes said the workshops presented a highly unique and valuable opportunity for those in the aged care industry to increase their knowledge and skills in providing support for people living with dementia.
The introduction of new aged care standards and the current Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety are providing important opportunities to reflect on how well services support people living with dementia. These unique master classes provided participants with a highly interactive experience with one of the international leaders in innovative approaches to dementia practice.