July 3, 2012
From the article “Alzheimer’s Disease: Dutch Village Doubles as Nursing Home”:
A Dutch village dubbed “The Truman Show” for dementia patients is getting praise from Alzheimer’s experts in the U.S.
The tree-lined streets of Hogewey, a tiny village at the edge of Amsterdam, boast shops, restaurants, a movie theater and a hairdresser. Its 23 apartments are carefully crafted to feel like home to 152 residents.
But Hogewey is not a real village; it’s a nursing home.
“Our director compared it to a theater,” said Isabel van Zuthem, Hogewey’s information officer. “The frontstage is what all the residents experience as a normal way of living, their normal home. But backstage, we are a nursing home. Everything is arranged to give all residents all the care they need. But they feel like they’re living a normal life, and that’s what we think is very important.”
The supermarket cashier, the restaurant manager: all staff who work incognito, specially trained to care for people with dementia. Most of the residents think it’s a real village.
“Many times, a nursing home is very institutional: nurses walk around in white clothes; people sit together in big rooms to eat meals. We decided that’s not how we would like to live when we get old,” said Van Zuthem, adding that Hogewey residents are more at ease and need less medication because they feel at home.
“The ‘deception’ is really adjusting our reality to allow the person with dementia to be in a place that is comforting and safe,” said Cynthia Barton, a nurse practitioner at the University of California at San Francisco’s Memory and Aging Center. “It is unrealistic to think that they will be able to retain new information or remember our repeated attempts to correct them, so we emphasize strategies to make people feel safe and well cared for.”
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