Village for Those with Dementia Shines with Dignity

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Perhaps it takes a village to care for a person with dementia too.

Imagine a place where people with dementia could live with freedom yet safety; independence yet supervision; consistency amid inevitable change.

Courtesy of Manatee County Government

Courtesy of Manatee County Government

Sound too good to be true? That’s because it only exists in a few places on earth, even though it should be available everywhere.

At Hogeweyk (no, not Hogwarts, but almost as cool), in Weesp, Holland, people with dementia live in their own little self-contained village. They do their own shopping at the grocery store, cook their own meals, socialize at their own apartments, meet up with friends at the café, and take strolls through the gardens whenever they choose.

How is this safe, you ask? Remember, Hogeweyk is self-contained and secure (think of the show “Under the Dome” – just not the scary part). The secret is that it’s big enough to never even notice it. To those with dementia, it just feels like a warm, inviting city.

Sure, there are personal care assistants who live there, too. But they wear street clothes, treat those with dementia as equals, and lend a hand only when needed. They live with the individuals with dementia in spacious apartments that house 6 to 8 people.

Feeling a sense of autonomy, or that one has some semblance of choice in one’s day-to-day life, is crucial to wellbeing among those with dementia (or anyone, for that matter). These folks have genuine autonomy at Hogeweyk. They can outfit their apartments with varying design schemes and, of course, bring their own belongings. They wake up whenever they want, go to bed whenever they choose, and spend the hours in between in whatever ways make them happy. A movie, a haircut, an afternoon reading on a park bench – these individuals have that freedom. And yet, they are also safe.

Why does it take so long for concepts like this to take hold in the United States? I love our country, but what are we afraid of? The liability? The short-term costs even though the long-term reduction in health care costs could be substantial?

Is it that difficult for us to realize that people with dementia are really no different than people without dementia, except for some different needs?

This is a beautiful idea that restores dignity to those with dementia who might otherwise experience dehumanization as a result of traditional long-term care. For more information about Hogeweyk, including pictures, click here.

Then start telling your neighbors. After all, it might also take a village to change the face of dementia care.

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