‘Positive language’ helps increase quality of life for people with dementia, say experts

Authors note changing language is an important part of Montessori methodology

Using positive language when working with people living with dementia is an important step in enhancing quality of life, say two authors of a book examining the positive impact of Montessori methodology on people who have cognitive impairment.

Tom and Karen Brenner, the authors of You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care, underscore the importance of mining for strengths when working with people who have dementia.

Once those strengths are discovered, caregivers can build upon those attributes “to reach people who sometimes seem unreachable.”

And positive language plays a vital role in this process.

“We can turn ‘Oh, mom, you know you can’t drive anymore,’ into, ‘Let’s go for a walk, mom,’ ” the couple states in an article posted on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room website, a resource dedicated to sharing expert information about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“We can tell the people we are caring for that we enjoyed being with them today or that we like the sound of their laughter. Positive language doesn’t mean patronizing language. …”

Montessori programming was developed more than 100 years ago by Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori. Montessori programming, which is used in OMNI Health Care long-term care homes, largely focuses on harnessing people’s strengths to help them succeed in activation.

Montessori, as the Brenners point out, was also an early practitioner of using positive-language techniques. They note that using positive language simply takes practise.

“It takes a lot of thought and even more effort to break the habits of a lifetime, but if we can just try being conscious of using positive language, we will begin to see very real differences in our lives,” the Brenners write.

“This is especially true when caring for someone who is living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.”

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