Hillcrest named Gold Winner in McKnight’s Technology Awards for Montessori method in dementia care

Hillcrest Health Services was named a Gold Award winner in Quality, Senior Living on October 5 as part of McKnight’s Senior Living’s 2018 Excellence in Technology Awards. Through implementing the Montessori method in dementia care, with the help of technology, Hillcrest has significantly improved quality of life for residents at Hillcrest Country Estates Grand Lodge.

The Technology Awards contest is highly competitive and recognizes organizations across the U.S. who are using technology to better serve their residents or business interests. For senior living, the competition offers 10 categories, and a panel of experts selects one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze winner for each category.

Dr. Anna Fisher, Hillcrest’s director of quality and education and a nationally-renowned dementia expert, made it a quality initiative goal to reduce the use of off-label antipsychotic medications after reports indicated high rates. Through collaboration among others in the Hillcrest organization, Fisher created a methodical plan to reduce antipsychotic use, increase resident engagement and enhance quality of life. After researching non-pharmacological approaches in dementia care, Hillcrest decided to implement the Montessori method.

As Fisher describes it, the Montessori method is based on respect and dignity to all individuals and provides a prepared environment conducive to resident learning and engagement. It encourages purposeful work that meets people where they are, providing a sense of community and belonging.

“Just because someone is cognitively impaired doesn’t mean they’re unable to learn,” Fisher said. “We’re breaking down the stereotype – yes, they can if they’re given the opportunity.”

To assist in implementing the Montessori method, Hillcrest partnered with The Roberts Academy, the only secondary Montessori school in the State of Nebraska. Collaborative efforts led to the formation of an intergenerational school in which junior high and high school students visit Hillcrest Country Estates Grand Lodge every Friday and interact/engage with residents.

This partnership, which was formed eight years ago, has been essential to the consistent use of purpose-driven activities to engage with residents. Prior to interacting with residents at Hillcrest Country Estates Grand Lodge the last two years, Montessori students worked with residents at Hillcrest Mable Rose.

The Roberts Academy received a project lifesaver grant from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to demonstrate ongoing quality improvement efforts to better accommodate resident participation in activities. This grant afforded Hillcrest the opportunity to create mobile activity carts to use with individuals with dementia who are unable to attend regular activities.

Hillcrest and The Roberts Academy collaborated to create more than 100 evidence-based activity guides for each multi-sensory activity. Activities accommodate individuals in mild, moderate and severe stages of dementia. Montessori students assisted in the training and education of Hillcrest team members for effective use of the activity guides.

The use of technology – computers to enhance group activities, creation of PowerPoint presentations to share with family, use of Google Maps so residents can “visit” important places, exercising through use of the Nintendo Wii, etc. – has been integral to the success of Hillcrest’s efforts in person-centered care. Dr. Fisher explains this “person-centered outcome” is built on strengths, encourages engagement, recognizes accomplishments and allows residents to exercise motor skills and muscle memory.

After years of partnering with The Roberts Academy, the two-way, intergenerational learning has allowed for both students and aging adults to see just how the Montessori method works. Hillcrest has seen a decreased use of off-label antipsychotics, decreased resident behaviors and increased resident engagement in activities among assisted living and memory support residents at The Grand Lodge.

Dr. Fisher and Sharyl Ronan, CEO, accepted the Gold Award on Monday, October 8 at the 2018 AHCA/NCAL Annual Conference in San Diego. For more information about the award and other award winners, visit mcknightsseniorliving.com.