Shared By Haley United States
For those of us caring for seniors with dementia, successful interventions are centered on reminiscence and the person. What happens when we give the person the chance to explore an environment that feels familiar to them? Dementia villages are aiming to do just that.
In general, dementia villages are safe communities designed specifically for people living with dementia. While each village looks different and is executed in its own unique way based on the people who live there (and the money the community has), a few things remain in the center of the village philosophy: safety, socialization, and reminiscence.
Hogewyck is internationally recognized as the first dementia village in the world, though chances are high that you have worked in a community that featured a village-like feel. The Netherlands opened Hogewyck in 2009 and it has been researched and replicated ever since. It is considered a nursing home and receives federal funding (as every nursing home does) from the government. It features apartments that are decorated to match a particular lifestyle the resident would feel comfortable with and has a post office, grocery store, restaurant, and lots of outdoor space for everyone to enjoy.
In America, the Glenner Town Square is located in southern California. While this program is a day program and not a residential one, the similarities to Hogewyck are striking. Based on 1950s Main Street, the Glenner Town Square offers an activity calendar where groups take place throughout the community - the Little Blue House, the Library, and the Park, to name a few. Again, the founders relied heavily on the success they saw when using reminiscence with seniors living with memory loss.
Activity Professionals should keep up with pertinent research about successful (and unsuccessful) interventions for people living with dementia. Until a cure is found, Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia will continue to affect seniors throughout the world. While you may not be able to create a Dementia Village in your nursing home, assisted living, or community, you can replicate some successful interventions.
Seniors living with dementia respond well to reminiscence, so be sure to incorporate it throughout your calendar. Try reminiscing based conversation groups, as well as using reminiscing questions on dining room tables or have questions available for visitors to use during their time at your community.
Dementia villages are successful, in part, because the communities are designed to look welcoming and familiar, not clinical. You may not be able to put storefronts down your activity hallway, and that’s okay. Could you start small by painting a mural of a relaxing garden in your activity room, or by using vintage table settings (sugar dispensers, salt and pepper shakers, etc.) that are less clinical and more homelike?
During your reminiscing groups, try to use props as much as possible. Pass around an old baseball glove when talking about favorite pastimes or a lace veil when remembering wedding days.
Dementia villages are also successful because they are entirely person-centered. You can replicate this approach by ensuring you and your team know the histories and preferences of each senior you serve. Remember that Mr. Smith likes his coffee black while he reads the newspaper and bring him a cup before your News Review group. Respect that Evelyn prefers to sleep late and skip inviting her to your early morning exercise class.
Activity Professionals are usually already great at this. Our jobs are based on getting to know more about the senior than just their medical needs. You can be an important part of the person-centered puzzle for every resident in your community. Try to not get frustrated with the nursing staff and instead teach them about the residents with patience. Share interesting facts about the residents to nursing staff (“Did you know George used to play lacrosse in college? Talk to him about that the next time he is giving you trouble during his shower. He lights up when he talks about it.”)
It can feel difficult to maintain a calm atmosphere when call lights are buzzing, and alarms are ringing, and visitors are talking, and exercise music is blaring! However, you can do your part to make your activity space as calm as possible.
There is something especially soothing about the outdoors. Hopefully, your residents have access to a safe outdoor area. If not, consider how your department could increase outdoor time to residents.
Dementia villages are amazing and should inspire us to do what we can to replicate them in our own community. Chances are, you are probably already doing a lot to capture the feeling of person-centered care and reminiscence based interactions.
I’d love to hear more from you - do you have a dementia village set-up in your community? If so, what are the pros and cons that you see? If you don’t have a dementia village, what are you doing to bring in the familiar and comfortable in your community?