Dutch Village Gives Alzheimer’s Residents A Home Again

Posted by Accutech on April 13, 2012 6:40 pm

For the past twenty years, outside of Amsterdam, a Dutch village called Hogewey has been home to hundreds of elderly residents suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia. Rather than the typical nursing facilities that resemble hospitals, Hogewey is a quaint, picturesque setting that looks more like a vacation postcard.

This is one of a very few residential facilities specifically built to maintain the illusion of an unchanged life for its residents. The village was specially constructed to mimic shops, cafes, a movie theater and even a beauty parlor. Nurses and other caregivers are the shopkeepers and clerks. Residents walk the lovely landscaped streets, stop to visit or have coffee unaware that they are being watched over by professionals.

The village was designed to give residents with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) the chance to spend their remaining years surrounded by as much normalcy as possible. People with AD  tend to live in their own pasts, unaware of their conditions, so Hogewey’s environment simply reinforces that. Living quarters are modeled after their former environments; rustic, urban, Christian, upscale, and even Indonesian.

"Our director compared it to a theater," said Isabel van Zuthem, Hogewey's information officer. "The frontstage is what all the residents experience as a normal way of living, their normal home. But backstage, we are a nursing home. Everything is arranged to give all residents all the care they need. But they feel like they're living a normal life, and that's what we think is very important."

Moving to a completely different and often confusing environment, filled with people they don’t know, can be distressing to AD sufferers and the resulting anxiety can make them difficult to manage. The director of Hogewey has said the residents are calmer, more agreeable and often require less medication. To put it another way, they're happier.

Hogewey has been criticized for deceiving residents with a false sense of normality. Staff and managers argue that they provide a safe, nurturing environment that encourages them to interact, be active and use their cognitive skills.

Hogewey isn’t the only resource of its kind. Towsley Village Memory Care Center in Chelsea, Michigan, is a similar facility where residents live in four neighborhoods, each staffed with elder care professionals. Families are asked to bring familiar furniture, knick-knacks, photographs or other familiar possessions to make them feel more at ease. Surrounding AD residents with their memorabilia is a common practice in Alzheimer’s care and can help reduce the stress associated with a move to a care facility.

While this may be a wonderful alternative to traditional elder-care, this kind of facility can be prohibitively expensive. Hogewey costs residents an estimated $6000 monthly, which can be out of reach for many families. But the hope is that as more and more facilities begin to model themselves after places like Hogewey and Towsley Village, the costs will go down. In the meantime, these fortunate residents will live out their days in peace, in friendship and at “home”.

Accutech knows that caring for elderly AD or Dementia residents requires patience, compassion and empathy. But it also requires security and vigilance as confused and distressed residents will often try and leave for reasons they may not even know themselves. Accutech’s ResidentGuard wander management systems secures them comfortably while allowing the freedom to move about their care facilities. Accutech offers several systems as well as a system comparison chart to determine the system that’s appropriate for any facility.

Topics: News, ResidentGuard