Ageing and living rather than waiting to die is the philosophy behind the "Dementia Village", a nursing home for people living with dementia. In the 1990s, Yvonne Van Amerongen worked in a so-called traditional residence in the Netherlands; she was therefore at the forefront of the reality of seniors living in long-term care.
Wanting to offer an environment where everyone would like to spend the rest of their life, Amerongen teamed up with six of her colleagues. After more than a year of research, a promising idea emerged: building a long-term care facility where residents would live amongst other residents that lived with similar cognitive impairments. It was only 20 years later that their goal was finally reached: in December 2009 opened the first "Dementia Village", a mini-society where people with dementia lived with their peers while maintaining their dignity, their autonomy and their intimacy.
A world first, this village has inspired many. Vancouver and Dax (France) will host their first village in 2019 and by the end of 2018, Quebec City will have a nursing home with a similar concept
What are the main characteristics of this type of residence? CDS Boutique did some research to introduce you to this new model!
There is only one entrance and exit which is monitored by a receptionist. The architecture is designed so that seniors do not feel trapped. Doors have no locks, which allows residents to move freely.
Choice of Residence
In Hogewey, the different houses are furnished in an older style. The decor and furnishings are from the late 1900s, depending on the memories and culture of the residents. The living environment therefore is more residential: people feel at home and recognize their environment, which helps them feel better despite the disease.
The village is divided into neighbourhoods and each household is designed in a different lifestyle. Decoration, music, activities, even the food and the layout of the table are chosen to fit the particular style of each residence.
Upon arrival, residents are directed to a home that resembles them, and with people having the same interests and way of life.
Since these villages have multiple buildings, activities are more than diversified: walkways allow residents to walk and cycle; the garden enables them to exercise their green thumb; cooking and painting workshops and bingo nights are also offered.
Relatives are welcome at any time, day or night. There are no visiting hours and their participation is strongly encouraged.
Relationship between residents and professionals
No more uniforms! At Hogewey, staff and residents wears their normal clothes. Five seniors live in each household with professionals and they are discreetly monitored by cameras. More than 250 professionals take care of the residents, without them realizing it. Seniors occupy the different functions within the village: cashiers, postmen, grocers, etc. Evaluations and interventions are more discreet, in order to preserve the resident’s dignity.
However, this approach requires a different mentality. Employees must not correct residents, nor should they hide their reality: if a person buys 20 loaves of bread at the grocery store, a staff member will return them later; if a resident asks where he is, he will be told that he lives in a place where he receives the care and help he needs. Sources of anger, stress or confusion are reduced. Taking medication is voluntary and is minimal thanks to the benefits of this approach.
Assessments and interactions are done to focus on what the older person is still able to do (residual skills), rather than what they can’t do anymore. This practice empowers the inhabitants and maximizes their autonomy and independence.
Certainly, some improvements could be made. For example, in Hogewey, residents cannot currently live with their loved ones.
These residential projects are expensive and may seem inaccessible to a large part of the population. However, several approaches in this model can be applied in long-term care facilities to optimize the situation of people with neurodegenerative disease. For example, they could participate in the different tasks of daily life.
These villages may not be the perfect answer to the housing issues of frail seniors, but they certainly have an innovative approach. Maybe it takes a whole village to take care of their seniors at the end of their lives!