It Does Take a Village

January 7, 2014
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By: Suzanne Paolucci, LCSW

In the event that you did not get the chance to see CNN’s Worlds Untold Stories this past week, I wanted to give you the opportunity to learn about an incredible place in the Netherlands. Hogewey, commonly known as Dementiaville, is a village dedicated to those living with dementia. Residents are free to roam inside and outside this four acre complex. This is not the sterile environment typical of most nursing homes where an individual is confined to a wing on a floor surrounded by lab coats and fluorescent lights. In fact, this village supports residents going outside, cycling, shopping, and going to the theater or cafe. Residents have their own private rooms decorated in different themes called lifestyle options, which attempt to mimic how the person might have lived most of their life. The lifestyle options range anywhere from urban to homemaker, cultural to religious, all with the goal of helping the resident feel at home and comfortable. In this community, residents are also encouraged to be actively involved. In order for Hogewey’s residents to feel a sense of purpose, they are encouraged to assist with laundry and cooking and other tasks with the goal of helping.

Yvonne van Amerongen, one of Hogewey’s co-founders, had previously worked in the same building as a Nursing Home Administrator. Her inspiration to create a better environment for those with dementia stemmed from her sense of relief when her Father had passed away peacefully from a heart attack. She was grateful that he never needed to be in a Nursing Home similar to the one she had worked in.

As a professional, what makes this place remarkable to me is how the care is delivered. There is a two to one ratio of staff to residents. All staff, from the barber to the chef are trained to work with individuals with dementia. A Social Worker is on call to handle any emergency that might occur within this village. Oftentimes she is there to help assist an individual who might be agitated which often occurs with individuals suffering from dementia. Her expertise and training can quickly help diffuse a frustrating situation.

Although there has not been an empirical study, van Amerongen reports that she has noticed that her residents are living longer, taking less medications and overall seem to be happy supporting the old saying that “it does take a village”. To see the full piece and read “The 5 things I learned” by Sanjay Gupta CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, please click on the link below. I hope you find it as inspiring as I did.

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