It’s no secret that dementia is a global health crisis. With no cure it’s important that we begin to look at ways to offer a better standard of living. One Dutch village is taking a new stance against dementia, offering its 152 residents a chance at a normal life.
At first glance Hogeweyk could be any other village, it has a grocery story, a post office, a theatre. However, workers at the shops and restaurants are all in fact registered nurses, cameras keep an eye on residents at all times and there is only one-way in and out.
Hogeweyk functions as full time ‘reminiscence therapy’ that draws on patients’ own lives to help them cope with the cognitive and behavioural symptoms of dementia.
Instead of being confined to their rooms, residents move freely through out the village, going about their day-to-day lives, all the while watched carefully by staff.
The community aspect of the village is particularly important. Studies have shown that isolation can actually decrease the production of Myelin in the brain. Myelin is a fibre that’s crucial to maintaining nerve cells in the brain. A decrease in Myelin results in worsening symptoms of dementia and therefore worsens their quality of life.
One of the nicest things that Hogeweyk do for their residents is provide unique décor for their homes. Each house is furnished according to the period the residents began losing their memories and so they don’t have to cope with confusion over modern times.
Unlike other dementia facilities, Hogeweyk’s nurses don’t try to correct residents when they’ve misremembered the date or some fact about their lives, instead they agree with everything they’re saying. This reminds me of something the staff at Poppy Lodge in the UK is doing. I highly recommend watching the Channel 4 show if you’ve not already. It’s a real eye-opener into what I hope becomes the norm for dementia treatment globally.