Putting people first with Montessori dementia care


By 2050 over 1 million Australians are expected to be living with dementia. 

It’s not always easy to know what to say, how to manage your own emotions, or how to help when you’re with a loved one living with dementia.

As Dementia Awareness Month comes to an end, let’s look at how the work of Dr Maria Montessori can help people with dementia lead independent and meaningful lives.

The Montessori approach to dementia care
Dr Maria Montessori believed every human has the right to:

  • independence
  • a meaningful place in their community
  • high self-esteem
  • make choices and contributions to their community.

You might be familiar with the Montessori philosophy as a foundation for early childhood education. The same principles are applied a little differently in dementia care. 



12 key principles of Montessori dementia care

Applying these principles creates a person-centred approach that encourages independence through sensory, social and cognitive activities and everyday tasks. And it can mean keeping a connection with a loved one.
  1. Create a sense of purpose with activities that capture the person’s interest
  2. Invite the person with dementia to join in
  3. Offer choice whenever possible
  4. Talk less and demonstrate more
  5. Focus on what physical skills the person has and what they can do
  6. Slow down and match your speed with the person you’re caring for 
  7. Use images and visual hints and cues
  8. Give the person something to hold
  9. Start with simple tasks and move to harder ones 
  10. Break tasks down into steps that are easier to follow 
  11. Ask if they enjoyed the activity and would they like to do it again
  12. Aim for engagement and connection — there’s no right or wrong

Why it works

The Montessori dementia care principles work with a certain type of memory that controls muscle memory and habits; the procedural or implicit memory.

This type of memory is less affected by dementia so the person with dementia may still know how to shake hands, catch a ball, or smile. And with demonstration and holistic support, they may be able to build new muscle memories for tasks to support their independence.

Talk less, listen more

Dementia can happen to anyone. It doesn’t discriminate. But people can discriminate even with the best of intentions. People with dementia still want to connect with others, they still need encouragement and motivation, and want to feel secure and appreciated.

By using the principles of the Montessori approach to dementia care, we can create a supportive and engaging environments for people living with dementia.

To find out more about our services for Ageing click here or call 1800 236 762 to speak to our friendly customer care staff.

N.B. The information in the article is one approach assistance for persons providing care to a person with dementia. It must be remembered the progression of dementia varies from person  to person. The Montessori approach is one of a number of approaches to assist with strategies for a person centred approach to ensure people with dementia can take part in the things they enjoy.