De Hogeweyk is a quaint village on the outskirts of Amsterdam in Weesp. It is a self-contained, gated community. The beautifully landscaped village boasts a boulevard of shops, a town square, salon, restaurant, theater, pub and homes. De Hogeweyk is an exclusive village. Residents must meet one key requirement to live there – they must have severe dementia.
For more in-depth coverage of De Hogeweyk, read issue 29 of Dutch the magazine.
People with Alzheimer’s often recall routines from their everyday lives that they want to continue. De Hogeweyk’s homes are meant to resemble moments in time when residents were in the prime of their lives and are more likely to feel at ease. Six to seven people with similar lifestyles live in each home along with permanent staff. Lifestyles include include upper class (‘Goois’), homey, Christian, artisan, urban, cultural and Indonesian. Each home’s décor and layout is meticulously designed to represent a lifestyle. Daily menus also reflect those lifestyles.
In traditional nursing homes, residents with severe dementia typically have few chores or stimulating activities to fill their days. At De Hogeweyk residents work closely with staff members to manage their households and take care of daily tasks such as washing and cooking. They do other things which give them a sense of normalcy such as eating at a restaurant, grocery shopping or spending an afternoon at a salon. Staff members, dressed in street clothes, are always on hand, blending into the town’s infrastructure.
Despite De Hogeweyk’s success, there are concerns it is a dishonest environment and may cause residents to lose whatever remaining grip they have on reality. Telling the truth to dementia patients should always be the starting point, but there are exceptions. In cases where a person’s dementia causes significant anger or distress in response to the truth, it may be more humane to find responses that evade or offer only a partial answer to the person’s question.
De Hogeweyk’s residents require fewer medications, eat better, live longer and appear more joyful than those in traditional elder care facilities. To the outside world, De Hogeweyk seems like a world of make believe. But for residents, it is real. And it is home.
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