Could the Dutch Village model be one of the answers for Dementia Care in the future?

It is certainly no secret that Dementia is a major growing global health problem, and in the absence of a cure there is increasing focus on risk reduction, timely diagnosis and early intervention. As improvements are made through more effective clinical diagnosis, the focus is moving towards a more effective treatment for the syndrome, and what the future holds for caring for the growing population of dementia sufferers in the UK, and indeed globally. Astonishingly this is predicted to be around 100 million by 2050.

Hogewey could be taken for a very normal looking town on the outskirts of Amsterdam, but it is a very significant town or in reality a small village that is exploring new ways of caring for dementia. This small enclave in the suburbs was opened in 2009, housing 150 residents, supported by 250 Dementia trained staff providing different skills and support running the villages supermarkets, restaurants and hair salons. The town square has a public house, theatre and café, with the village having over 25 clubs for residents to join and participate in. This unique concept has been created to address a feeling or sense of normalcy for residents, providing familiar surroundings they can feel comfortable within. Like any secure Nursing Home it has one main entrance to the village which is secure and monitored 24 hours a day.

Hogewey is a nursing home with a huge difference that provides a unique concept in care with residents living in an environment that depicts life before dementia. Many of the residents are in latter stages of the syndrome, but life expectancy of those suffering with Dementia at Howewey has been extended. Less medication, more exercise and improved food consumption is the outcome for residents, and at first glance the thriving and bustling community could be confused with any other village in the Netherlands.

Creating a less stressful, more relaxed environment

Each resident benefit’s from uniquely designed living areas which are quintessentially Dutch. They again share communal areas that represent the décor in typical Dutch homes. The living environment has been designed to create a sense of familiarity for residents, which in turn has led to residents feeling much more relaxed in their environment – a real if not specifically designed neighbourhood for those living with Dementia.

The original idea developed by the founders in 1992 was to create a concept where residents aren’t confused by the world around them. Familiar surroundings, but also residents able to surround themselves with familiarity from their own past. Each resident is housed with other people they could have easily been friends with in the past, sharing the same interests and beliefs.

With over 25 clubs, the Hogewey system has many ways of stimulating the resident’s minds notwithstanding encouraging residents to stroll around the grounds and village gardens, or indeed a visit to the village shops, hair salon, or enjoy the entertainment at the theatre. The clubs encourage baking, music and other familiar activities residents may have been involved with in their past. Each resident is able to choose and enjoy an abundance of stimulating activities all designed to improve the quality of life.

Although at the time of the video was recorded, no clinical research had been done on life expectancy at Hogewey. However, Director of the village keenly pointed out that when the site was originally home to a typical clinical style Dutch Nursing home, the average stay was around 2.5 years, now at Hogeway it is more like 3.5 years.

You could also be somewhat mindful of the cost of running such a unique concept in Nursing care, but Hogewey is state funded and receives the same level of funding as any other state-run Nursing home in the Netherlands.

So, what does the future hold?

Hogewey is entirely unique, and maybe not the only answer for Dementia care in the future, but many lessons can be learnt from this unique facility. With a growing population of Dementia sufferers, new innovative methods of care will need to be introduced, and surely the real and only answer is to create an environment where every individual can live life in as normal an environment as possible, living life better, feeling happier and most certainly less confused by their surroundings. Hogewey could certainly be the answer!

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