New programme at St Nicholas hopes to revolutionise dementia care

New programme at St Nicholas hopes to revolutionise dementia care

The six-month-long course applies Montessori educational principles to an older demographic living with dementia, writes Chrissie Russell

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14th March, 2021

A new, ground-breaking programme has launched at St Nicholas Montessori College that could help revolutionise elder care for people suffering from dementia.

For the past 50 years, the teacher-training college in the beautiful seaside town of Dun Laoghaire has specialised in Montessori methodology, training and equipping professionals across educational settings in Ireland.

But while we traditionally associate the education sphere of Montessori with the younger generation, the innovative new Level 6 Special Purpose Award in Montessori Education for Dementia builds on the college’s existing expertise in that realm to deliver a fresh, in-depth six-month long programme that seeks to train a new generation of care-givers in bringing the benefits of Montessori education to an older, but highly receptive, demographic.

It’s the first programme of its kind in Ireland and one of only a handful of learning programmes available anywhere in the world that links Montessori principles with elder care.

At the helm of the exciting new QQI-accredited course is award winning author, dementia educator and consultant Jennifer Brush, an internationally recognised expert in the field of Montessori Education for Dementia.

In 2018, Brush began facilitating two-day workshops at St Nicholas Montessori College, predominantly engaging with healthcare workers, introducing participants to the myriad benefits of applying the Montessori philosophy to ageing and dementia care.

The new, scaled-up, six-month education programme has been created in response to the phenomenal feedback from those workshops and the growing interest that has developed with regard to integrating Montessori Education into the offering at nursing facilities around the country.

Explaining more about the trailblazing programme, Brush said: “If you are looking for ways to transform your elder care community to an environment of joy and purpose, you’ve come to the right place.

“During this programme, students will learn about Montessori Education for Dementia, an innovative approach to care which enables individuals to care for themselves, others, and their community – bringing purpose and meaning to elders’ lives, and increasing staff satisfaction significantly.

The Level 6 Certificate will appeal to a broad range of applicants from healthcare workers and Montessori educators to school-leavers, high school graduates, graduates of QQI Level 5 and 6 education and healthcare programmes as well as mature entrants, international students and graduates changing career direction.

“Home carers and family members caring for relatives with dementia can also gain valuable insight and learn practical skills that will have genuine impact,” said Brush. “Anyone who has a desire to apply Montessori philosophy to ageing and dementia in order to improve outcomes for elders living with cognitive impairment will benefit from this programme.”

The six-month course is delivered through a combination of live online sessions, in-class workshops, self-directed learning and professional practice in the placement modules. Having completed the introductory workshop, participants can continue to work towards the combined blended-learning QQI accredited 30 ECTS (six months) Certificate and AMI Diploma covering modules that include Montessori Education across a Lifespan, Attention, Learning and Memory, Understanding Dementia and Applied Montessori – Prepared Environments for Living with Dementia.

Due to Covid-19 complications, the programme will be conducted entirely online for intake in April, and the placement aspect will be suspended in response to the government recommendations for elderly and vulnerable people to shield. But it’s hoped that as the vaccine plan is rolled out, the placement and face-to-face components of the course will be reintroduced later in the year.

“There is normally a placement supposed to be done in the programme within the nursing facilities where students will take their learning with Jennifer into that nursing home and apply it in practice. But the placements, at least for our April intake, will need to be suspended, because nursing homes in particular are so susceptible to Covid-19 that we have to place safety first,” said Mackenzie Young, Admissions and Marketing Director and International Officer at St Nicholas Montessori Society of Ireland.

However, the hope is that by October, some face-to-face elements of the blended online learning approach will be reinstated. The fact that the first run of the programme is already underway, and operating with great success in a remote learning format, has demonstrated the huge success of running the programme in this way without a negative impact on accessing learning or learning outcomes.

Brush is hugely proud of the programme structure and what it seeks to achieve for those who will go on to work in elder care either in a work setting or personal, familial level.

She said: “This programme provides a powerful approach to dementia care that will change perspectives on ageing and dementia care.

“Students will learn how to create a dementia-friendly physical and social environment that helps people with cognitive impairment to participate in meaningful activities that match their cognitive skills, interests and abilities.

“Students will also develop an understanding about memory loss, learning, and attention in order to best communicate with individuals living with dementia. The programme will create the tools that care providers need to cope with the challenges of dementia care, in order to create an environment where everyone wants to live and work.”

Those seeking to apply must have Leaving Certificate, High School Diploma (or above) and can apply at smsi.ie/all-courses/apply. Applications must be made before April 1 for the course which will begin with three online introductory workshops on April 15, 16 and 17 before progressing to the full programme timetable.

The fees for the Special Purpose Award (Level 6) Montessori Education for Dementia Programme are €1,790 per person programme fee including Workshop fee or €1,590 Group Discount for four plus applicants also including Workshop fee. For those interested in completing the stand-alone workshop, they can register for the fee of €295.

A typical week will feature two hours of live online class sessions, between two and four hours of independent study, and three two-day workshops throughout the year, with the April intake course concluding in September.

The addition of the Special Purpose Award (Level 6) Montessori Education for Dementia programme is just the latest addition to the many exciting and diverse courses and programmes offered on the syllabus at St Nicholas Montessori College, Ireland’s leading provider of Montessori and Early Years professionals, offering undergraduate and postgraduate teacher training programmes.

All programmes at the College are accredited by QQI and are recognised by DCYA, Pobal and SUSI, receiving domestic and international recognition. The inclusion of the Special Purpose Award (Level 6) Montessori Education for Dementia programme is a welcome addition that supports St Nicholas Montessori College’s continued dedication and vision to bring excellence in Montessori education to the broader education landscape.

For more information, see smsi.ie

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