A Different Visit

The Montessori-Approach to Dementia Care & Activities for People with Alzheimer’s

The concept of using the early education “Montessori Method” as a treatment for dementia has been in practice for more than twenty years. This person-centered approach trains dementia caregivers with specific emphasis on values including respect, dignity, and equality. These values are expressed in face-to-face interactions, including communication techniques and providing choice.

Psychologist Cameron Camp, Ph.D., at the Center for Applied Research in Dementia, in Ohio, has taken this teaching method, traditionally used on young children, and retooled it to help people with Alzheimer’s disease regain some of the skills that have fallen prey to their illness. The Montessori-based activities effectively engage persons with memory loss and allow families and friends to have purposeful and rewarding visits with loved ones who have memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.

Relate, Motivate, Appreciate

Commonly known as the Montessori method, this approach to learning has typically been applied in school settings. But Camp’s research has shown that this approach to learning, one based on rehabilitation principles, can benefit people in all stages of their lives, and even those with profound cognitive impairment. His adaptation of the research behind the Montessori method for use with Alzheimer’s patients is called the Montessori-based Dementia Programming method.

Making Connections

Camp, director of research and development at the Center for Applied Research in Dementia, believes that people living with Alzheimer’s disease still have much to contribute to their families, friends and community members. His work aims to apply or translate findings from other areas of psychology to his work with Alzheimer’s patients.

“How can we connect with the person still here?” is the first question Camp asks. “Our focus is working with the strengths that remain: finding the person behind the memory problems, engaging the individual, and letting everyone involved feel success and accomplishment.” 

For example, one Montessori-based skills-building exercise that allows Alzheimer’s patients to redevelop the motor skills necessary to feed themselves. Individuals use a spoon with slots to dig for objects buried in a tub of rice. When the elderly person finds a “treasure,” the rice falls through the spaces leaving the thing on the spoon. 

“We want to flip the system on its ear — to change people’s expectations about what people with dementia are capable of,” says Camp. “Our job is to allow this person to be present — to help them, wherever they are in the journey of dementia, to be connected with a community and contribute to the best of their ability.”

Creating Memories

Along with the Montessori-Based Dementia Programming method, Camp developed an intervention called “spaced retrieval,” which teaches Alzheimer’s patients how to recall information over increasingly longer periods of time using objects to help them remember. 

“By creating these cognitive prostheses, we can circumvent deficits in memory and executive function and bolster people’s sense of accomplishment and self-esteem,” says Camp. “If the person you are visiting is happy afterward, it was a good activity and a good visit.”

The Montessori-Based Dementia Care Program is based on core human values creates effective memory interventions customized to the needs of those we serve. From activities programming to staff training to working with families, we have a solution to meet your needs.

Dr. Camp is Director of Research, Center for Applied Research in Dementia, Ohio USA. Dr. Camp is an internationally-known research scientist in the field of aging. He has conducted applied and translational research in gerontology, dementia intervention, and cognitive intervention for over 30 years. He has served in academic settings, teaching coursework in adult development and aging, rising to Research Professor of Psychology. Dr. Camp holds workshops on designing cognitive and behavioral interventions for dementia internationally. His current research involves using Montessori-based activities as rehabilitative interventions to enable long-term care residents with dementia to effectively lead activities for other residents with dementia.

New Hampshire Dementia Care Training Requirement

Articles on this site, corresponding videos, and linked resources may count toward the annual Dementia Care Training requirement as outlined in RSA 151:47. See the complete law for details. All information acquired should be used within the caregiver’s defined scope of practice.

Activity Resources

NEW ACTIVITY BOOK! Just Released Feb 2022

Memory Activities Book for Seniors: 7 Tested Solutions to Strengthen Your Memory Quickly and Easily Using the Montessori Method. Also Useful for Alzheimer’s, Post Stroke, and Dementia, by Michel Brain

Caregiver Resources

Hiding the Stranger in the Mirror: A Detective’s Manual for Solving Problems Associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, by Ph.D. Cameron J. Camp

You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care, by Tom and Karen Brenner

The Montessori Method for Connecting to People with Dementia by K. Blanton Brenner

Profressional Resources

The Montessori approach used with people with dementia: The effects on the well-being and behavior of older people with moderate to severe cognitive deficits, by Dominique Giroux

The Montessori Alzheimer’s Project: Bringing Montessori Insights to Dementia Care, by Lyle Weinstein

Montessori for Elder and Dementia Care (Volume 1), by Jennifer Brush MA CCC-SLP

Montessori Works For Dementia: Everyday Activities for People Living with Dementia, by Bernadette Phillips, Stephen Phillips

Montessori Dementia Care Professional Certification Exam Preparation Notebook, by MDCP.CERT Press

3 thoughts on “A Different Visit

  1. This information was very informative and when listening I was trying to igure how I can apply with my elderly mother ((87) and beginning stage of memories loss and declining eye sight.


  2. Regardless of what your identity is, what you’ve achieved, what your monetary circumstance is — while you’re managing a parent with Alzheimer’s, you personally feel powerless. The parent can’t work, can’t live alone, and is absolutely reliant, similar to a little child. As the sickness unfurls, you don’t have the foggiest idea what’s in store.


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