Dementia Care: What in the World is a Dementia Village?

Imagine that you’ve been diagnosed with dementia. You’re in the early stages and have the opportunity to choose how you will be cared for in the future.Dementia Care: What in the World is a Dementia Village?

What if your choices were between a home setting or a gated community where you can share an apartment with friends and have the freedom to go shopping whenever you please. Which would you pick? Learn more about an international senior care community revolutionizing dementia care through dementia villages.

A Dementia Village

In the municipality of Weesp, not far from Amsterdam, sits the village of Hogewey. At first glance, it looks like any other village complete with a movie theater, restaurants and shops. There are apartments surrounding a lovely courtyard complete with benches, rippling ponds, trickling fountains and vibrant seasonal flowers that make for a perfect sunny afternoon.

This village, however, is quite unique.

Hogewey is home to 152 men and women living with severe dementia. The community has 23 residential units, each shared by 6-8 residents. Around-the-clock care is provided by 240 “villagers” who are actually trained geriatric nurses and caregivers dressed in street clothes. The staff takes care of everything from cooking meals and planning activities to assisting with bathing, personal care and administering medications. Even the individuals staffing the various village “businesses” are trained in dementia care, to help those with Alzheimer’s go about their day.

Freedom and Security for Residents with Dementia

To ensure resident safety, Hogewey is a secure, but it also allows residents to roam around and explore as much as they wish within its confines. Residents are even encouraged to help with cooking and other household tasks including shopping, in the village grocery store. If they get lost or confused, there is always a “villager” nearby to provide assistance.

Constant reminiscence therapy paired with the freedom allows residents to quell behavioral issues. Still not a believer? Well, consider that the natural decrease in agitation and aggression often results in reduced need for high-powered drugs and medicine.

This model also helps residents remain active and gives them a sense of purpose — something altogether absent in a traditional nursing home environment.

Living a “Normal” Life

Dementia Care: What in the World is a Dementia Village?Some critics oppose the idea of creating this environment, arguing that residents are being misled. However, proponents tout the dementia village as being the most compassionate, kind type of dementia care offered anywhere.

Many experts agree the homelike setting at Hogewey allows residents to live as normal a life as possible, eating dinner family style, visiting with friends, stopping by the barbershop, or going for a walk whenever they wish.

As you can imagine, cost is one of the greatest barriers to making self-contained villages like Hogewey the standard in dementia care. The cost to build the community was slightly over $25 million, $22 million of which was funded by the Dutch government. Residents pay approximately $7,000 monthly, and there is a perpetual waiting list.

The Future of Dementia Care?

Germany and Switzerland have studied Hogewey and may be the next countries to follow suit, creating their own dementia care villages. In the U.S., it is estimated that unless there is a major medical breakthrough, there could be as many as 16 million cases of Alzheimer’s and related dementias by the year 2050.

How wonderful it would be to see this unique care model catch on in the U.S.

What do you think about this concept? Would you consider a community like Hogewey for yourself or a loved one? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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