People with dementia may require assistance with daily tasks and activities because they are often unable to interpret social and environmental cues and/or remember the corresponding responses. While many with dementia live with loved ones who provide the support they need, some require professional 24-hour supervised care.
Hogeweyk, a village in the Netherlands, is taking an innovative approach to providing sufferers of dementia with the assistance and security they need in their daily lives. People with dementia often remember past events with much more clarity than recent events and have the desire to wander, be it to run errands or simply go for a walk. Hogeweyk was specially designed for residents with dementia to go about their daily lives seemingly without restriction.
Hogeweyk furnishes its residents with an apartment similar to where they might have lived in the past and a whole village to roam. Six to eight residents with common interests and backgrounds share a house that is decorated to closely represent a lifestyle enjoyed before moving to Hogeweyk. The residents cook, do housework, shop at the market, visit gardens and attend movies at the local cinema – enjoying amenities and routines they became accustomed to over their lifetimes.
Specially trained caregivers, in ordinary clothes, function as the villages’ support system; they live in the village as roommates, neighbors, shop clerks, and other village workers. Caregivers calmly help residents in their daily tasks or compensate for missed cues, like applying a resident’s bill to his room if he forgets to pay at the restaurant.
In the U.S, there are nearly 5 million people over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease the most common form of dementia and that number is projected to triple by 2050. Currently our options for dementia care communities comparable to Hogeweyk are memory care units. A memory care unit is usually a separate ward within an assisted living community that is designed to address the needs of those with dementia. They are staffed with personnel specifically trained to interact with dementia sufferers and feature special security measures to deter wandering beyond the unit.
Memory care units are safe environments that offer daily living assistance and recreational programs. However, one can appreciate the appeal of an open-air village where residents can live freely and where simple mistakes such as forgetting to pay a bill is understood and accounted for. Perhaps U.S. developers will look to Hogeweyk for inspiration as they begin to build additional dementia care communities to accommodate the growing demographic.