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A New And Better Sort Of Nursing Care For Elderly Dementia Patients

A new day is dawning in the realm of nursing care for elderly Alzheimer's and dementia patients. Traditional nursing homes reeking of antiseptic, with their homogenous buildings and shiny floors, are often a constant reminder to residents that they’re sick and can’t take care of themselves. Contrast that with Hogewey, an innovative new concept community dubbed “Dementia Village,” where the patients become villagers in a small town.Near Amsterdam, Hogewey is a cutting-edge facility that sets a new standard for senior care. Within the confines of this simulated four-acre village, residents can live what would appear from the outside looking in to be completely normal lives. All of the caretakers here wear street clothes and work in the village like actors at a theme park. The 152 Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are residents in an immersive environment that simulates the times of their lives when they were most lucid.

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The village has a lovely town square with welcoming benches, relaxing fountains and landscaped gardens, as well as a post office, salon and even a theater. Only one door provides access, and the free-roaming inhabitants are monitored around the clock everywhere they go via cameras. This security system ensures the safety and health of everyone within the simulated neighborhood. Each two-story dormitory-style building is home to six or seven people, with one or two live-in caretakers. There are a total of 23 carefully constructed homes, the furnishings of which were chosen to reflect the time period when their occupants’ short-term memories stopped working. The houses look like they were transported through time from the 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s.

To bolster the illusion, the designers made every effort to be accurate right down to details such as tablecloths. For example, those who were art lovers have familiar paintings hung on their walls or music always playing in the background, while religious residents have living quarters with décor that reflects their faith. Because the place looks and feels like home, even though relatives and caregivers know it to be a façade, the patients do not feel as though they are being fooled at all: it becomes their reality. This can help them to behave more normally in the midst of their disease-induced confusion.

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A mix of 250 part-time and full-time geriatric nurses and specialists perform roles such as cashier, post office clerk and shopping in the grocery store alongside patients, creating a completely normal-looking atmosphere. Handling money can be a problem for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia, so Hogewey makes it easy by including everything each patient needs in the fees families are charged for care, some of which is covered by the government. This means that residents can pick up their groceries and send their mail without ever needing to use cash or credit cards. Amazing in its efficiency and success, the fees for care at Hogewey amount to only about ten percent of what it costs to maintain residents in traditional nursing facilities.

This is the sort of place that friends and family enjoy visiting, to share time in the lives of their loved ones. CNN reported that patients at Hogewey have a tendency to eat better, live longer, need fewer medications, and seem much happier than those who live in standard nursing facilities. Also, unlike the average nursing home where patients may only go outside for a minute or two each day, at Hogewey, the staff encourages and facilitates an active lifestyle for everyone.The residents here may not understand where they are, but they always feel right at home, gently convinced that nothing in their lives has changed.

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