More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s Disease, and someone new is diagnosed every 67 seconds. While Alzheimer’s and dementia are frustrating diagnoses to receive, it’s also often quite difficult for the loved ones of those diagnosed to adjust to their new role as caregivers. In 2013, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, “15.5 million family and friends provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias—care valued at $220.2 billion.”
In the US, Alzheimer’s and dementia care is both stressful and costly. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that $214 billion American dollars were spent in 2014 on Alzheimer’s care. Worldwide, the global cost of Alzheimer’s and dementia care is “estimated to be $606 billion, which is equivalent to 1% of the entire world’s gross domestic product.”
The disease actually is most common in Western Europe and researchers have started to think outside of the box when it comes to how they treat people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
In fact, in the small Dutch town of Hogeway, located just outside of downtown Amsterdam, the 152 residents who live there all have severe cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Each resident has a private room decorated in one of seven different lifestyle themes. Each theme is intended to be a replica of a specific time period in their lives, and no detail is spared; from pictures on the walls to the make and model of a television, every item is era-appropriate.
Hogeway is all about independence. Residents are free to leave their rooms to walk outside, eat meals together, and enjoy daily visits from family members. There is a central village with a park, beauty salon, restaurant, theatre and grocery store.
The ratio of Hogeway staff to residents is 2 to 1, and both full- and part-time caretakers are thoroughly trained in dementia care. Caregivers in Hogeway do not dress in hospital garb, instead they dress as groundskeepers and employees “working” in the central village. Hogeway does not use money in exchange for items in the stores to avoid any frustration or confusion for the residents.
The History of Hogeway
Hogeway co-founder Yvonne van Amerongen was managing an eldercare facility in 1992 when she received the news that her father had unexpectedly passed away. While she was shocked, she was also grateful that he never had ended up in a nursing home. She spent the next few years of her life brainstorming with colleagues about how to improve the quality of life in eldercare facilities, especially for those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s.
In 2009, they built Hogeway on four acres of land outside of Amsterdam, creating a completely self-contained village with only one entrance/exit, which is monitored by staff members.
Does Dementia Village Work?
Van Amerongen says yes, it does. The residents of Hogeway require fewer medications for anxiety and aggression, in comparison to other facilities. They also report lower occurrences of depression.
And while she doesn’t have the official data to back up her claim, she says that residents at Hogeway live nearly two years longer than those she worked with at the eldercare facility in 1992.
What do you think? Would you want to see a Dementia Village-type of facility here in the US?