Alzheimer's Patients Benefit From Spiritual Visits that Apply Montessori-Style Methods in New Ways

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Research demonstrates the "wake up power" of breakthrough interactive book for Alzheimer's patients. Glued in "touchable objects," bright pictures, large print stimulate mind, emotion, and spirituality. New, interactive product based on proven Montessori methods.

Women with Stage II Alzheimer’s disease showed five times as much pleasure and alertness in response to one-to-one visits using multi-sensory methods than to traditional “talking only” visits. Research by Dr. Diana L. Walters, specialist in the spiritual needs of the elderly, tested an approach based on the concepts of famed learning expert, Maria Montessori.

The method uses a book that combines bright pictures, oversized print, and glued in “touchable objects.” The objects—such as a swatch of lamb’s fleece, strip of cedar wood, and a card with the aroma of frankincense—evoke vivid sensory response and activate the mind.

“It was exciting to see how my Mom responded. Many times she would join in and read along with me. She had all kinds of good responses—smiles and oohs and ahhs—when she was able to feel the different materials. [It was a] great experience for her. In the entire experience she smiled and was at peace … it was truly a worship time,” reported Rev. Paul Mathenia, a pastor.

The study is believed to be the first research to empirically test responses to a method that provides spiritual enrichment to this population. Six million Americans are afflicted with Alzheimer’s and gradually become less responsive to sermons and input that is only cognitive and delivered vocally. They are stimulated by the interactive nature of Dr. Walters’s book, illustrated by the experience of Dr. Eunice Reynolds, Dean of Oxford Graduate School,

“Mother could not go to church the last year of her life. She liked to read but she had stopped reading. When she saw your book her eyes lit up. Mother read each page … would tenderly touch all of the areas in the book that were designed for that kind of feedback. She didn’t just look at it once—she would hold it lovingly, like she were holding a child. She must have read your book in her last few days at least 200 times. Your book added so much quality to Mother’s last days.”

The book, Remembering the Life of Jesus, is one of several “Touching Grace” products specially designed for dementia patients. These may be seen in detail at the Web site of the nonprofit Foundation for Bold Endeavors.

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