A dementia village looks more like a tight-knit residential community rather than a nursing home for those living with advanced dementia. It might be hard to spot the dementia support at first. But, look a little closer.
Making residents feel at home, while providing a safe environment with supports in place to ensure their independence and enjoyment of life.
The cashier at the grocery store and the gardener tending the lawns – both are trained dementia care providers. In fact, every one of the employees in this community is specially trained to provide care and support to people living with advanced dementia.
It’s part of the façade, and a big part of why it’s safe for residents to go about their lives as independently as they do. Professional support for dementia patients (residents) is always there if they need it.
The idea behind creating dedicated communities to provide support for someone with dementia is this: make residents feel at home, while providing a safe environment with supports in place to ensure their independence and enjoyment of life.
Hogeweyk dementia village, Netherlands
One of the best-known dementia care communities in the world is called Hogeweyk, located just outside of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
Opened in 2009, Hogeweyk is a dementia care community that houses 152 residents, with about 250 trained dementia care providers on staff. This is the community that the term “dementia village” originates from.
Only the one main door into and out of the village remains locked. The rest of the dementia care community functions with a normal small-town feel, with residents allowed to walk around, pick-up groceries, or spend time watching live theatre. Just regular everyday things they would have done their whole lives.
Dementia care facilities around the world have looked to the Hogeweyk community model when developing their own communities — though not every dementia care community resembles the small village that Hogeweyk built.
Factors such as space and funding often influence the look of dementia care facilities. There are some that resemble a series of cottages with communal living space, and secure outdoor yards, or others that are a unit within a larger nursing home.
The majority of dementia care communities follow one important rule: the facility must feel like home.
Many homes are even decorated to reflect the different lifestyles residents once enjoyed. Examples include: retro; upper class; religious; urban; homey, etc. The décor is chosen to mimic a lifestyle the residents feel most comfortable in and have some familiarity with.
Dementia village Canada
The idea of a dedicated dementia care community is still relatively new in Canada, but there is a dementia care facility near Georgian Bay, Ontario that offers residents with dementia the option of a Memory Care Unit.
Georgian Bay Retirement’s Memory Care Unit boasts an innovative and secure living environment that was specifically designed to meet the needs of residents living with advanced dementia. It’s a place where residents can enjoy their favourite activities, with the hope that being in a familiar environment will help trigger memories.
In Edmonton, there is the Wedman House and Village, which has 30 enhanced, designated supportive living suites. These are divided into three, 10-bed, dementia-care cottages.
Although not as elaborate as the Hogeweyk dementia village, the cottages at Wedman House do have access to a secure yard so dementia residents can spend time outdoors. The cottages are also equipped with a kitchenette, and accessible bathroom facilities.
A home-like environment is the focus of Edmonton’s Wedman House and Village, and residents can participate in a number of daily activities. The cottages are staffed 24/7 so dementia support is always accessible.
These are just a couple of examples of dementia care facilities in Canada that are taking the community-living based approach to dementia care.
Dementia village advantages
It’s reported that residents living with advanced dementia in these special communities appear to be less stressed, display less challenging behaviour, are in physically better shape, and are happier. Hogeweyk also says that its residents need fewer medications, eat healthier, and live longer.
Living in a dementia care community offers its residents a secure living accommodation that feels like home and allows residents to actively participate in the community throughout the day. For caregivers, knowing that the person in your care is enjoying life and is in a safe and secure environment is extremely reassuring.
For people living with dementia, living in a dementia care community is supposed to feel like living in any regular town. Sometimes it can be difficult for residents with advanced dementia to understand that they are living in a care facility.
That’s the issue that critics of the dementia village will argue.
Dementia village ethics
Is it ethically fair to have people with dementia living in an isolated community, especially if they think it is just a regular neighbourhood?
As great as the idea of a dementia village may seem to some, there are critics that question the ethics behind the strategy.
The problem of ethics comes in when you look at how much the residents are being deceived. Is it wrong to let residents with advanced dementia believe they live in a regular community, or should they always be told the truth? Where is the ethical line? Is it acceptable if the residents are truly happy?
It can be a hard judgment to make.
The easy thing to agree on is that all caregivers want the same thing: for the person in their care to get the most enjoyment out of life and to know they are safe.
If you were to live with advanced dementia, would you be happy living in a dementia village?
It’s a question that many caregivers have to ask themselves when considering the options for the person in their care, or when creating an advanced care plan.