There’s a new choice being practiced in the Netherlands for persons with dementia, a choice that gives great opportunity for all individuals that have this fatal disease. There’s only one of its kind in the world and it has been created to bring about a complete sense of “normalcy” and autonomy. The choice comes in the form of a small village designed especially for patients with severe dementia. It is located on a four-acre site on the outskirts of Amsterdam, containing open space: wide boulevards, side-streets, squares, sheltered courtyards, gardens with ponds, reeds and wild flowers, two-storey brick houses; and a cafe, restaurant, theatre, minimarket and hairdressing salon.
John Henley, “The village where people have dementia – and fun,” Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/aug/27/dementia-village-residents-have-fun
Student Researcher: Joshua Benyola, Indian River State College
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
Once an individual comes to the point in his or her life where living on one’s own becomes too difficult, that is the point when a family member or legal guardian has to make the decision of what to do with the individual. Most people with dementia or of advanced years are sent to nursing homes, “senior communities, “ where they’re watched daily and often mistreated. Some fear the day of being sent to one of these places; that’s how bad it is!
What if one were to change the complete perception of a senior living facility? Well there is a place in the Netherlands that is called a “dementia village.” This little village is set up so one who has this disease can live a normal life. The catch is that the individual is watched all the time by trained nurses and doctors who work at restaurants, grocery stores, hair salons, and the theater. The residents are literally tricked into believing they are living a normal life in society. But are they really being tricked? Many are already having trouble even realizing what they did two hours before. Think about it you have this disease that’s life-threatening but you have no idea it’s going to kill you. So your family or someone recommends you to live at this place where you have a room specifically built around your personality and you’re allowed to roam freely, ride a bike, do whatever you please. If something was to go wrong there are trained individuals all around watching and protecting you. So in essence you’re actually living the life of normalcy to an extent. Recently a reporter from CNN by the name of John Tinker visited this village. He asked many questions regarding the living arrangement, care for the patients, and even went as far as asking if the people are happy. The response from many individuals was what more could one ask for. Everyone here is being treated as normal as possible. Van Amerongen is one of the founders of this new age nursing home. She sat down with her colleagues in November of 1992 and expressed that she was deeply disappointed in the way things were being handled in nursing homes. She went on and said that her father passed away from a heart attack and was thankful he never got to the age of having to go to a nursing home. So she and her colleagues made the decision to build a place where people with dementia can live the rest of their lives in a relatively happy, normal, and peaceful way. The facility was completed in 2009 and has been active since. According to this facility’s mission statement, its mission is to “provide the most normal possible life reminiscent of each individual’s formative years.”
Does this solve an ethical problem? Was there an ethical problem to begin with? Definitely, there are indications that the new form of nursing facility has the potential of being more positive than negative. In fact, there have been studies on this facility, which show the activities that are being held extend a helping hand to slow down the speed of the disease. Some of the activities include arts and crafts, music, and baking class. The true ethical problem here is not that this is a fake society but that we live each day knowing that traditional nursing homes are mistreating our family members, friends, coworkers, and fellow citizens and do nothing about it. Rather than putting these poor innocent individuals in 12 x 12 rooms on nursing beds and treating them like animals why don’t we make the last few breaths and walks of life they have a peaceful, loving, extraordinary journey? Why must we be ignorant to the fact that 35.6 million people have dementia according to world health organization and there are 7.7 million new cases being diagnosed every year? This means that by 2030 the expected amount of people with this devouring disease will double and then triple by 2050. The question that remains is when will we develop our own facilities that promote the welfare of those with dementia? By the facts alone residents at this little village named Hogewey require fewer medications, eat better, live longer, and seem to have a great amount of joy. The time has come for change in the traditional manner in which we treat our loved ones afflicted with this tragic illness.