I came across this wonderful TED talk the other day by Yvonne van Amerongen. I’m always on the look out for information about Dementia as we have a family member who lives with this dreadful illness. He’s 83 and life is a turmoil for him as his memory is diminished and the resultant anxiety, confusion and depression take over his once full and active life.
In Australia we have very basic medical facility type rooms in a nursing home, where dementia patients needing 24/7 care may live. We also have premier facilities that boast a cinema and hairdresser in an essentially clinical setting.
The Netherlands has tried a different approach. In the town of Weesp is a model gated community where people with dementia live in houses of 6-7 people in a village setting with its parkland, grocery store, bookstore, community garden, cafe, hairdresser etc. Residents can leave their house and walk or cycle around the gated village of 4 acres. It was opened in 1992 and houses 152 residents in 23 houses.
Before coming into Hogeweyk, the Dementia village, the residents and their families are interviewed to understand the things that are important to the resident. The way they like to live, their values and interests and what ” home” needs to be like for them. Residents are then grouped with other people who have similar interests.
At the village there’s the Cultured Group. Seven people live in a home where classical music plays. The interiors are classical and elegant. They enjoy French cuisine and they enjoy getting up later in the day. The Craftsman Lifestyle are people who owned small farms or worked with their hands. They like getting up early and going to bed early in their house. The house is furnished in country style furniture. The Indonesian house attracts people with origins from the Dutch East India heritage.
The Village emphasizes the importance of social connection for people with Dementia. Whether it’s meeting a friend at the village lake to feed the ducks or a theatre excursion.
Each house has its own kitchen and dining room, lounge room and bedrooms with ensuite so the household resembles a normal home. Carers wear everyday clothes and residents can move around freely. There are no locks on their doors.
The founder emphasizes that this costs no more than running a ” normal” aged care facility. ” We run on the same budget as any traditional nursing home” says Yvonne van Amerongan.
” All that’s needed is a little imagination. Red curtains are as expensive as grey ones.”
It’s a good philosophy for life really, as well as aged care.