Recently I’ve experienced various different approaches to dementia care, and there’ll be a blog post dedicated to my feelings about how people should be looked after in the near future. However, today we’re discussing the idea of the Dementia Village, a purpose-built community for those in various stages of the disease and modelled on those in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Do we really need entire, separate communities? Doesn’t that feed into the notion that those with dementia can’t function in normal society even with plenty of help and support? Having seen firsthand what the outcome can be if vulnerable adults are not looked after properly my initial response is ‘good idea’. At least they would be treated with respect, kindness and dignity while family and friends could visit as often as they liked.
There would be plenty of opportunities for social interaction and thanks to specialist training any issues would be dealt with promptly. It’s obvious that there are plenty of positives to this sort of scheme but I myself am a little worried that it could become a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Should the Kent-based project be a huge success what’s to stop it being rolled out nationwide?
It’s an ambitious project to be sure, an entirely new neighbourhood with 4,0000 homes plus shops, cafes and even a library. Mind you, the developers aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel. They’re just copying the design of Hogeweyk where residents have a park, cinema, gardens, supermarket and, of course, 24-hour care. Which therein lies the rub because how will staff know which residents need assistance? Will a team of wardens live on site? What about medication? Will residents have a pharmacy or will dementia care nurses make house calls?
Frank van Dillen who co-founded Dementia Village Advisors and who was a Hogeweyk architect is unsurprisingly fairly enthusiastic about the UK project.
“We try to de-institutionalised that approach because people want to live as normally as possible.” So there is care and medication, but also everyday activities: “You want to go to a restaurant, do your own grocery shopping, sit in a bar, walk outside and meet people.”
Trouble is, moving is stressful enough at the best of times, in terms of life experiences it’s right up there with divorce and even death. Will there really be enough incentives to encourage someone to move hundreds of miles away from their friends, family and the community they have come to love? Like Stacey Cannon, from the Alzheimer’s Society says: “Our work is about making any community anywhere dementia-friendly [so that people] can stay where they’ve lived all their lives.”
The whole point of setting up Dementia Friends schemes, involving local businesses and encouraging people to get to know their older neighbours is to show them they’re welcome. While the idea of a Dementia Village sounds idyllic in principle, the reality is we should all be doing our bit to make the entire world dementia friendly, not just small, isolated corners of it. Being a resident of Hogeweyk isn’t cheap either. Fees are over £5,000 a month per resident which is double the cost of a BUPA care home.
Realistically, it depends on an individual’s situation, not just their financial one but their personal feelings about leaving their old life behind. If you’re an adventurous person who’s looking for a fresh start or somewhere to live peacefully then it could be the place for you. But many older people tend to be home birds and in my opinion, it’ll take far more than the promise of meeting new friends for coffee to persuade people to up sticks.