A pioneering care facility has been designed purely to cater for elderly people suffering from dementia in the small Netherlands town of Weesp. This gated community, named Hogeweyk, is complete with doctors, nurses and specialists working around the clock to provide all 152 residents with the necessary 24-hour care. Patients residing at Hogeweyk have been found to be more active, happier, require less medication and live for longer than those in traditional nursing homes.
Hogeweyk is the place we’d all like to retire to. Far from a conventional nursing home, this chic, multi-award winning village accommodates residents in 23 houses, categorised in seven different styles. Depending on an individual’s personality, you can choose from Goois (upper-class), Christian, Artisan, Indonesian, Homey, Urban or Cultural. Each style has the appropriate musical accompaniment and even table settings and food to suit the style. The objective behind the assortment of style choices is to match the living environment to that enjoyed by the individual prior to arriving in the village as much as possible.
All residents manage their daily lives with the assistance of staff members throughout the village. Everyday activities such as cooking and washing are performed within the homes. When it’s grocery time, the Hogeweyk supermarket comes in handy, offering dementia sufferers privacy and autonomy. But the supermarket isn’t the only convenience in the village. There are landscaped gardens, fountains, a park, streets, hair salon, restaurant, bar and even a theatre.
To qualify for admittance into the village, patients have to be categorised as having “severe cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease”. Given current statistics, the number of people meeting these requirements is on the rise. According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide, 47.5 million people have dementia. Every year, 7.7 million new cases are diagnosed. If figures continue to climb at this rate, by the year 2050 the number of dementia sufferers worldwide will have tripled.
This architecturally designed complex was built on just four acres of land in 2009 and was funded primarily by the Dutch government. The parameters of the two-storey complexes form the walls of the village, allowing all individuals to roam around the complex safely without disappearing into the world outside. The cost for residents is comparative to that of conventional nursing homes, at around €5000 (approximately AUD$7,890) per month, however the Dutch government subsidises approximately 50% of this to ease the burden for the residents and their families.
One of the primary objectives of the complex is to make the residents’ living experience as real and independent as possible. Doctors, nurses and carers are always on hand, with staff constantly roaming the complex, enabling residents to go about their activities independently and safely. Carers assist with certain home duties but wear normal casual clothes to fit in with the setting (as opposed to clinical uniforms) and not raise anxiety for dementia sufferers.
Residents don’t live completely independently, though. Within a particular ‘house’, each resident will have their own private (and large) bedroom, but will share the kitchen, living and dining room. No locks are on the doors and residents are free to move around the village in the same manner they would outside the village.
Staff adhere to certain rules to accommodate the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Maintaining hyperreality (a simulation of reality) is important, so when talking to residents, staff do not correct facts about the past. However, they will not lie to the patient if he or she enquires about why they are in the village. Due to the nature of the disease, patients are likely to have a better memory of the distant past rather than the present, so the truthful answers given by the staff will likely soon be forgotten.
Money is another issue for dementia sufferers, so currency is completely taken out of the equation in the village. The residents’ payment plans are designed to cover all expenses, leaving no requirement for exchange of funds at any time, even at the village shops.
Sage Institute of Aged Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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