We should have our own Dementiaville

Dementiaville, or Hogewey, as it’s actually called, was started 20 years ago a short distance from Amsterdam

Miriam Stoppard

Dementiaville: Hogewey, Weesp, Holland

I ’m putting my family on notice: when I start dwindling into dementia I want them to put me into “Dementiaville”, the experimental village complete with supermarket, hairdresser, pub and theatre in the Netherlands.

Trained staff and carers are disguised as waitresses, hairdressers, barmen and barmaids, friends and extended family members. Not for me those soulless hospital wards where 15 to 20 people sit motionless and expressionless watching TV, the monotony only relieved by meals and medication.

That’s not living. It’s a kind of dying. And we’re committing almost a million people with dementia a year to this living death. What surprises me is that as a medical profession, as a government and as a society, we stand by and allow this horrible state of affairs to continue.

Dementiaville, or Hogewey, as it’s actually called, was started 20 years ago a short distance from Amsterdam by a woman and five other founder members who were determined to give patients with dementia a decent life.

Despite critics and opposition, she has triumphed. Dementiaville has no locks on doors, patients are on minimal medication and enjoy freedom of movement in and around their own homes. They’re given the opportunity to live their lives as they did before their illness.

As a result, patients are happy, busy, active, popping into each other’s houses or the pub for a beer and chat, doing their own shopping and having their hair done.

This alone would be enough but there’s more to make patients feel really at home and part of the real world.

There are different kinds of homes that accord with the lifestyles of individual patients before their illness. So there are houses designed and furnished in different styles such as urban for city dwellers and professionals, blue-collar suburban, aristocratic for well-heeled patients, cultural for art-lovers and theatre goers, Indonesian for Indonesian immigrants with even a Buddha in the garden, and Christian for those who are religious.

Yes, it’s an expensive scheme – about £4,000 a month per patient. But here, care of patients with dementia costs us £34billion a year and a quarter of all hospital beds are filled by dementia patients admitted as emergencies. Surely we should be giving Dementiaville a go?


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