Caring for someone with dementia can be difficult. Not only is it an adjustment in terms of figuring out the best course of care for your ailing relative, but it also takes an emotional toll. It’s not easy watching your family members lose their memory. My own grandma suffered from extreme dementia in the later years of her life, and it got to a point that we could no longer properly care for her at home. We had no choice but to place her in a proper care facility.
Unfortunately, many families have to face these tough decisions when their aging relatives with extreme dementia or Alzheimer’s can no longer provide them with proper care at home. This usually leads to a scramble to find an affordable but extensive healthcare facility where they can live. And in the Netherlands, there is one facility that has taken out the stress for families by coming up with the perfect solution that isn’t a nursing home or hospital. Instead, there is a whole town that was built with dementia/Alzheimer’s patients in mind.
Hogeweyk, located just outside Amsterdam, is a government-funded nursing care facility that is dedicated to caring for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It refers to itself as a dementia village which has the capacity to house more than 150 people.
The small town was built on nearly 3 acres of land, and it has 23 homes where its residents can exist together in groups. It was built in 2009. Besides the housing set up, the town also has a supermarket, a cafe, a hardware store, a hair salon, a restaurant, and a theater. The best part is that since it’s a care facility, the town also includes a physical therapy facility, as well as an outpatient care unit.
Caregivers within the town escort the residents to the grocery store, as well as assist them with their housework. In addition, there are cooks who help feed patients. And all the store employees are also equipped with training as to how to interact with those who have severe dementia.
The residents are able to wander throughout the town and enjoy the cafe and other amenities. Adding to a sense of normalcy, family and other townspeople can come by for visits or to give these residents a concert or street fair.
There is research to show that social isolation and a lack of activity can increase depression, as well as other issues for those living with dementia. By being able to have a sense of normalcy and engage in routines and activities, the quality of life for dementia patients can be better.
The city of Hogeweyk provides its residents with the ability to be independent and live as close to normal lives as possible, while also being safely cared for thanks to the experience of the town’s caretakers. That is a wonderful thing for dementia patients.
Hogeweyk isn’t the only town in the region that is known for taking a different approach to mental health care. In Geel, Belgium, for the past 700 years the city’s residents have been known to open their homes to those who are mentally ill or disabled and have taken them in as tenants. Since its creation, the city of Hogeweyk has been receiving international attention – mainly praise from health researchers and designers. The city has even inspired a similar creation in Ontario, Canada.
As someone who has experience with a family member who had dementia, I think this idea is a brilliant one. It allows for full-time care, but without necessarily having to stuff the patients into a tiny room of a hospital or nursing home. I personally think there should be more towns like this. What do you think? Let us know!
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Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.