What is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term that includes a number of different types of diseases that affect the brain, each with it own set of symptoms. Memory impairment is the hallmark feature of dementia, affecting social and occupational functioning, but it is not always the first sign of dementia. Sometimes difficulty with judgement, reasoning and insight may occur before signs of memory loss are noticed.
Dementia includes Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Frontotemporal Disease (FTD), Mixed Dementias, and other forms of Dementia.

The Geriatric Certificate Program

Did you know DementiAbility Methods and Communication Tips and Tools for Dementia are two of the required courses to get your Geriatric Certificate from McMaster University? The Geriatric Certificate Program is a continuing education program through McMaster University that offers specialized courses in geriatric care. The required courses are based on scientific evidence, come with many testimonials from others in the field and consistently link knowledge to practice. The planning and development of the GCP has been reviewed and endorsed by the McMaster Continuing Health Sciences Education Office; each graduate earns a GCP certificate of completion.

Interested in learning more? Check out the Geriatric Certificate Website here!

Success Stories

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Richmond Lions Manor DementiAbility Journey 2020

Students help seniors turn dementia into ‘DementiAbility’
Imagine a world where those living with dementia can enjoy a life filled with meaning, purpose, joy, independence, choice and high self-esteem. That’s what NC students are striving to create as they learn to apply Montessori methods to help seniors with dementia. About 60 first-year Recreation Therapy students recently completed training in DementiAbility Methods: the Montessori Way (DMMW), as part of their Therapeutic Approaches for an Aging Population (TAAP) course this winter term… READ MORE

Niagara College Students

Suzy Duncan Certification

Because We Care

DementiAbility is pleased to bring you “Because We Care” stories from those who are putting the DementiAbility Methods into action! The goal is to share a story, provided by a health care worker or family member, who has inspired us. Stories may be about supporting individuals with dementia during COVID-19, about their experience implementing DementiAbility Methods with a team, or any other anecdotes that provides some insight into the life of our paid and unpaid health care heroes. We hope these segments will shed some light on magical and memorable moments, overcoming difficult times, and everything in between. We want to showcase how care partners (professionals and families) are caring for the most vulnerable sector of our society. We hope you enjoy these inspirational stories as much as we do. Do you have a story you would like to share? Email us at laura@dementiability.com

This weeks “Because We Care” comes all the way from Burns Lake, BC. Jhenny sent me a message last week showing some of the wonderful art work she has inspired some of her residents to create. We are so pleased to introduce you to Jhenny!

“I am a greeter during the pandemic but to pass time I try and mingle with the residents.
One day I just decided to sit down and draw. Drawing has always been something I’ve enjoyed.
So I just sat down started drawing and pretty soon I had 2 people join a few days later I had 4 and now I will sometimes get up to 6 people sit down and colour or learn how to draw basic things like birds dogs cats etc…

Sometimes I will bring in my guitar and play some tunes some they know some I know.
Everyone is invited and remember when it comes to art there is no wrong way!”

Jhenny Nelson
The Pines
Burns Lake, BC

We love your attitude Jhenny! Keep up the great work and we can’t wait to see where your career takes you!

“I loved the Certification process. Going through the ‘All About Me’ and the other forms including Needs, Interests and Roles started some fascinating conversations. The two participants I had chosen were two that the team and I believed we knew quite well. But opening up these conversations meant that we learned some very valuable information about each participant that we did not know of before. I highly recommend getting Certified! Now as a Trainer, I absolutely love the discussions that I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of. While teaching over Zoom isn’t always the easiest, there are so many creative minds that love to collaborate and discuss new challenges and strategies that have arisen during the Pandemic.”

Kelly Jagger
Clinical Resource Worker,
Community Support Services
St. Joseph’s Health Center,
Waterloo Wellington

This weeks “Because We Care” comes from a recent DementiAbility Certified grad. We are thrilled to introduce you to Brandon.

“As part of completing my DementiAbility Certification each of us were tasked with implementing a “reading club” (what the Wilkes Terrace resident’s referred to as.) With the hurdles and demand of working in these challenging times our reading group at Wilkes Terrace long term care home was structured to take place twice a week (Wednesday + Thursday) at the same time each week. The overall experience was great and a huge success in my opinion. This project allowed me to learn a lot. I learned new things about the Wilkes Terrace residents, I learned that this reading group provided an environment where they felt safe, and secure enough to share stories. I also learned that there is a lot of behind the scenes preparation that goes into an activity like this. The residents here at Wilkes Terrace have requested that reading club continue to be an activity weekly, speaking with our activities coordinator she has now added “Reading Club” to the monthly activities twice weekly on our original days that we used. It was also passed on to me that it was proposed at Resident’s council meeting that the reading club had inspired the residents to want to write their own short story/stories. This is something that will most definitely be looked into as a project for the future.”

Brandon Pope
Psychogeriatric Resource Consultant
The McCausland Hospital / Wilkes Terrace LTC
Terrace Bay, ON

This weeks “Because We Care” comes from one of our newest DementiAbility Certification graduates! Helen Hunter (MPH) is the founder of the Dementia Family Caregiver Network in Sidney, BC.

“DementiAbility course and certification has helped me as a medical professional by increasing my knowledge to help those living with mild cognitive impairment, and dementia and their family caregivers. Using the knowledge from the course, workbook, and using the program participant profile and connecting what you know to what you do through the table of Connecting Observations to Goals and Interventions and using the WOW model assists in making a successful plan for each client.

Thank you, Gail and Laura, for this fantastic program, Dementiability!”

Thanks Helen! We can’t wait to see what you continue to do!

“I have had the incredible honour of working in a retirement home setting for the past 8 ½ years in the culinary department. I love working with our Senior Community and do my best to connect with each one of our Community Members on any level. Although I have had the desire, it has sometimes proved challenging for me to connect with those who are facing dementia.
Recently, I was able to take the DementAbility workshops, both communication and methods. While some of the material seemed very focused on long-term care settings and advanced dementia, I saw so much potential and benefit in applying these lessons to the Community Members I have the privilege of working with each day.
Just recently, a few days after completing the workshops, I had an interaction with one of our ladies. She has been diagnosed with Dementia and struggles with confusion which causes her anxiety and some depression. She was feeling very out of sorts, confused, and upset on this particular evening. She was wandering around in our 24-hour café unable to settle. I could see her struggle on my way out for the night, so I approached her, called her name, and asked if she would like to sit with me. We sat, but I could see that see was still quite unsettled. I called on what I had learned in the workshops. I moved closer to her, put my hand on her forearm, and began to talk about my day. It was incredible, almost instantly, I could feel her relax, focus, and connect with me. We had a cup of tea and had a lovely conversation. Something so simple, just taking the time to try instead of calling our “wellness” team to come and get her, or just walk by.
This, to me, is a great example of how being present and being aware can allow us to make a difference. Had I not been a part of the workshop, I would have known something was bothering her, but would not have known how to help her myself. I may have said some comforting things, but the likelihood is, without this training, my words of comfort would have been for me, as I would not have known how to connect with her and bring her comfort.”

Kelly-Anne Moss
Culinary Services Manager
V!VA Whitby Shores
Whitby, ON



When Royal Rose Place (RRP) first opened its doors in 2016, we had the opportunity to build a new culture from the ground up. From the very beginning, all staff members worked together to implement a person centred home, to achieve, improve and make a difference in each and every one of our residents’ lives. Beginning with the basics, Sarah Hessels, Life Enrichment Coordinator, was able to lead the home and implement a wide variety of DementiAbility Methods such as; activity buckets for residents to engage in throughout the day, All About Me posters outside residents doors, Mealtime Masterpieces for residents to create prior to meals, Job Boards to provide residents a sense of purpose within the home, a Craftsman Shed for the residents to show off their handyman skills and finally a calendar of programs that fully encapsulated DementiAbility Methods. Since then, we have been able to provide our residents with new themed areas such as; Little Roses Nursery where women and men can enjoy doll therapy, conversing about being a parent or talking about their childhood, a Sensory Room that provides comfort and cognitive stimulation and The Royal Garden which is a seasonal room where the residents can continue their passions of gardening or learn a new hobby.


Without Christine Wilkinson, Coordinator of the Recreation Therapy Program at

Niagara College, we would not have had our Royal Garden and many other DementiAbility activities. Since 2018, we have collaborated with her class to implement DementiAbility Methods within our home.



About five years ago, we were developing a new course in the Recreation Therapy Program called “Therapeutic Approaches for an Aging Population”. I knew in the development phase that I wanted to include DementiAbility Methods training for our students. After receiving an enthusiastic response from Gail Elliot when we first discussed this idea, planning began, and we were able to build the full DementiAbility Methods workshop into the course from the onset. I wanted to include a practical opportunity for students to put into practice what they learned in the workshop. It was an amazing stroke of luck that Royal Rose Place is located around the corner from Niagara College, and that Carina was fully onboard with collaborating from the first time we talked about it.


The assignment that students complete related to the workshop includes creating two DementiAbility activity kits for residents of Royal Rose Place. They also design a new themed area and then pitch that themed area to RRP staff. For the first two years of the partnership, students took their activity kits to RRP and had the opportunity to try them out with the residents, with the kits then being left at the home for future use by staff and residents. We have had to adapt this part of the assignment due to COVID-19 these past two years, but students were still able to create and present their activities virtually to staff, with RRP staff receiving the activities after the fact. For the themed area pitches, staff at RRP have selected the ideas that are the most appropriate, feasible, and creative, and have worked towards creating those themed areas, as they did with the “Royal Garden”.


Learning about the DementiAbility Methods and then having this practical opportunity through the partnership with Royal Rose Place has been very meaningful for students. Recreation Therapy student Jelena Vicentic says “this experience has been the most rewarding and eye-opening journey of my academic career. Prior to taking the DementiAbility Methods workshop I was terrified of dementia due to the common stigmas surrounding it. Now I see that individuals can lead a life with meaning, joy, and purpose by creating a supportive environment along with validating their reality. It was truly an honour and a privilege to learn, create, and collaborate with RRP. Knowing that our contributions will improve the lives of older adults is one the reasons we do what we do.” Jelena and her group members were one of the deserving teams whose themed area ideas will soon be implemented with the future creation of a retro-styled music room at Royal Rose Place.



Throughout the years, Gail Elliot has provided tours of our home for her colleagues around the world. When she gave Helen Millar, our Administrator and I the sign that says “DementiAbility Neighborhood” we felt truly honoured. It has been a pleasure to work alongside all of these wonderful people and I am genuinely excited to see where the Royal Rose Place team will take the home in the upcoming years. Although COVID-19 has affected our lives greatly, we have found ways to continue to provide our residents with a sense of normalcy through the use of DementiAbility Methods and our partnership with Niagara College.”


Carina Ervine, BRLS,Majoring in TR., CTRS – Life Enrichment Coordinator at Royal Rose Place

Christine Wilkinson, M.Sc., R/TRO – Coordinator, Recreation Therapy Program at Niagara College


This weeks “Because We Care” comes from an individual who has absolutely touched our hearts. We are so thrilled to introduce you to Christiana.

“What’s in a name?

DementiAbility, has been the core of my daily practice for decades as the owner and operator of Alexis Lodge Retirement Residence for the past two decades.

My journey through the years has been defined by transition, from beginnings working as a Registered Nurse on a busy crisis unit at Canada’s largest Psychiatric hospital, to my current day to day work, providing care to individuals with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
My first introduction came from Jill O’Donnell and her team, as our Consultant. Months later, I was all alone in the community to fend for myself and my residents. I had a couple of things in my favour, passion and the desire to make a difference. Unbeknownst to me, I branded Alexis Lodge as a home for difficult to manage individuals. My passion to create change also made me take on very challenging individuals, that no one wanted. I remember the day that one of our Nursing interns suggested a change of name to “Alexis Lodge Rehabilitation Centre.”

To help me along in my new position, I was constantly searching for educational opportunities and participating in training to improve my ability to care for those with dementia. Even so, I knew nothing about the Dementiability program, until our Local Health Integrated Health Network (LHIN) offered us the chance to do a workshop. After noticing the name, I remember mentioning DementiAbiility to a friend of mine who also operates a small home. At mention of the name, she lit up, and simply could not stop singing praises of the program. She told me that I’d soon realize I had never attended anything like it before, and insisted that I give it my full attention, so that I could bring my learnings back to my staff. Finally, she went on to tell me about the mother, Gail Elliot, who created the program, and her daughter, Laura, who now runs the program with her mother. She told me how kind, receptive and encouraging they both were. Driven by this enthusiastic reception, my curiosity got the better of me, and I could not wait for the training day to come.

After attending the program, I must say that it was everything my friend had told me, and more. Laura did not disappoint! It resonated so strongly with me, that from the very first day, I made up my mind, that I was going to become certified in Dementiability. All the things I have done through the years, now had a name, DementiAbility! All those years of pouring into people that were more or less written off, were now validated!

The goal in dementia care is to maintain and or enhance the individual’s remaining abilities, and Alexis Lodge has always, and will continue to do this by providing a safe, caring, loving and supportive home, that allows the abilities of our residents to shine through.

We are on our way to fully adopting the principles of Dementiabilty, guided by research, education and change in practices.”

Christiana Egi, RN, RNHN, NC
Executive Director
Alexis Lodge Retirement Residences
Scarborough, ON

Thank you Christiana for your years of dedicated service to those living with dementia. You have changed so many lives and will continue to change more. We look forward to many more years working together!

“Good morning Gail and Laura,

My name is Jelena Vicentic. I am a first year student in the Recreation Therapy program at Niagara College.

We had the opportunity to work through two of the DementiAbility workshops with Christine in Therapeutic Approaches to an Aging Population. Prior to learning about your methods I was terrified of Dementia. So much so that it was too difficult for me to attend the initial lecture introducing Dementia. I certainly did not see a future in Dementia care. Since participating in your workshops my life has changed forever.

Consider me a forever advocate of the DementiAbility Methods.

Thank you both for all the wonderful work you do.”
Jelena Vicentic
Recreation Therapy Fast-Track
Niagara College

“DementiAbility came to our Home to help us integrate their methods into the lives of residents living at Billings Court Manor in 2018. As a result , residents are now more engaged in meaningful activities in their daily lives.

We began by working on the environment of the Home. The residents are now able to enjoy a café, a workshop, an office, and a kitchen area. Throughout these areas, a variety of activities are made available with easy-to-read signage. Residents who have dementia are able to follow these cueing signs and initiate purposeful activities such as: sorting, reading, folding, colouring, and playing word games.

Many of our programs are now based around more meaningful activities, concentrating on the residents’ needs, interests and abilities. Examples are reading groups, baking bread, sorting laundry, setting the dining room table, and dusting. We started with one unit, and the staff from the other units saw the successful implementation of DementiAbility which included the decrease in behaviours and the overall happiness of the residents; they initiated similar interventions throughout the other four Home areas.

We thank Laura from DementiAbility for all her support. She helped transform our Home by using the DementiAbility methods, and has helped to give our residents an improved quality of life.”


Kathryn Penalgion

Director of Therapeutic Recreation Services

Billings Court Manor

Burlington, ON


It is time for another “Because We Care” segment! ⁠
Over the past few months we have had multiple staff come through the DementiAbility Certification process. Karleigh Wright, Sara Galusha & Stevie-Lee Kaemingh worked together to implement the DementiAbility Methods with those in their care over the past few months. This is what they had to say about their certification process:⁠

“I’m grateful to have had this experience. The client we selected for certification was quite an interesting person to get to know, and I enjoyed the time we were able to share together as a result of being involved with the DementiAbility certification. I feel it gave me a good opportunity to sit down, get to know him as a person, as well as who he was prior to his admission to long term care. Because of this experience, we were able to trial new interventions with him, and find some that were particularly successful. Objectively, the resident is doing much better now – demonstrating fewer responsive behaviours; more engaged at meal time; seemingly happier day to day. ⁠

While this type of thing is the specific role of the psychogeriatric resource program, and is not necessarily foreign to us, it was interesting and a fun experience to have a different “routine” to follow in determining and implementing these interventions. It also gave us a better opportunity to focus in on this client specifically, and we feel we’ve been able to assist him in achieving a better quality of life as a result.⁠

We are grateful for the experience!”⁠

Karleigh Wright, Sara Galusha & Stevie-Lee Kaemingh⁠
Canadian Mental Health Association ⁠
Fort Frances Branch⁠
Fort Frances, ON⁠

Well done and congratulations for all you have accomplished and becoming DementiAbility Certified!

FTD Resources:

To learn more about FTD, visit When Dementia is in the House, a website designed to help families who have a loved one with FTD and/or download the PFD book:Frank and Tess Detectives! which is a children’s activity book about Frontotemporal Degeneration.

Visit the Alzheimer’s Society websites to learn more about the different types of dementia and there community resources available in your area. There are local chapters around the world. Canada: http://alzheimer.ca/en/Home

Visit the Alzheimer’s Society website to learn more about the terms and definitions.

In the news – Alzheimer
The Alzheimer Society funds research to find a cure and support quality of life for people living with dementia. Alzheimer Society Research Program

Alzheimer’s Disease International
Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) is the worldwide federation of Alzheimer associations, which support people with dementia and their families.

Workshop Testimonials

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“I’ve been working in the field of Gerontology and dementia for over 16 years. I have attended countless conferences and workshops. I attended your Montessori training on Monday and Tuesday of this week and while I thought it was helpful I had no idea just how helpful or how much I had retained until being back at work for the past few days. The content of your presentation but mostly importantly, your teaching methods are amazing. I am absolutely amazed at the amount of information I have retained just by you repeating and repeating the key messages! I am so excited to begin having the staff on my team (myself included) begin looking at behaviors related to dementia in a new and innovative way. You are changing the face of dementia care and since I can’t stop thinking about you or the workshop I wanted to take the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. Thank you so much for all that you do!!!”


“Life changing – thousands of ideas & hope for the future!”

(Kingston, ON)

“This philosophy of care gives residents a reason to get up in the morning.”

(Scarborough, ON)

“This seminar made me think about Dementia in a different way – how even someone who is severely affected by Dementia can have quality in their life”

(Whitby, ON)

“I feel as though I have so much to bring back to Yellowknife, there is so much that can be done at our facility.”


“Amazing, there are no words to describe.”

(Toronto, ON)

“This workshop should be mandatory for everyone working in Dementia Care”

(Lindsay, ON)

“This workshop makes me feel quite emotional to realize where our dementia residence is lacking in providing residents with purpose. I feel motivated to start making changes.”


“On the Wednesday morning ater the workshop when I was working with my exercise group at work we were all close enough to be able to hold hands so at the end of group as asked if everyone would please join hands and I thanked all of them for being a part of my exercise group today and asked would you like to join me again on Friday and they all said they would come back. Here is the chilling/goose bump part…. one of the residents says “WOW is it ever nice to hold each others hands!” so THANK YOU again Gail!!”


In the media