There’s a Dutch Village Where All the Residents Are Constantly Watched, But It Is for Their Own Good
This tranquil place in the Netherlands seems to be completely unremarkable at first sight. The everyday routine of the 150 residents living here appears completely normal: they eat, sleep, and go shopping. However, every one of them is being closely and constantly watched.
Bright Side wants to share with you the story of one of the most amazing communities: a special elderly care facility for patients suffering from dementia.
The idea to open such an institution came to Yvonne van Amerongen in 2009. She had been working in a nursing home for a long time and was familiar with the clinical features and disease course of patients with dementia. At some point, she asked herself, "What do we really want for ourselves and our parents?" So she decided to create Hogeweyk, the first facility of this kind.
Patients are not isolated in wards. On the contrary, they live an ordinary life: they visit restaurants or meet up with the neighbors to play board games. And they don't have a clue that they are staying in a mental care facility.
The complex is perfectly equipped for comfortable living and includes an area with alleys, gardens, a hair salon, and even a small theatre!
The houses are built according to the time period when the patient's memory stopped functioning properly: in the style of the 1950s, 1970s, or even the 2000s. Every newcomer can choose an accommodation based on their preferences.
Patients live in houses in groups of 5-6 people with one or 2 caretakers. Yvonne van Amerongen believes that constant communication and interaction with the outside world help the patients to stay calm and prevent the disease from advancing. In fact, research has shown that solitude can be as harmful as smoking and twice as dangerous as obesity.
The husband of one of the Hogeweyk residents shares his thoughts on life in this facility: "This is a safe space where people can enjoy the change of seasons and feel when the weather is getting warm or cold. They can go to a restaurant, have a cup of tea, go for a walk." Medical staff are constantly present in the center, but the personnel pretend to be cashiers, workers, or residents and do not attract attention. The whole settlement looks very similar to a village, except for the fact that the majority of the population consists of elderly people and the goods at the supermarket are provided for free.
A friendly atmosphere and support are manifested in Hogeweyk in all aspects of life: employees are taught to focus on things that patients can do and not on their limitations. The founder of the medical facility said, "All people who live here need treatment and take medicine. But for us, their personality comes first." Besides, one of the main principles is to provide every patient with a choice. "Even if we know that you like sweet coffee, we will ask you every time anyway, 'Do you want some sugar in your coffee?' "
Hogeweyk looks like a closed district on the perimeter. If a patient heads to the exit, medical personnel politely explain that the door is closed and recommend that they try another route. But, usually, no one tries to leave the premises because living there is extremely comfortable. The 1.5-hectare complex accommodates every facility any patient may need. There is even a post office!
In 2013, the complex won a Highly Commended Award for the new concept of care for people suffering from dementia. It may be difficult to imagine, but living in this village is less costly than hiring a 24-hour nurse at home.
Hogeweyk is located just a short drive from the center of Amsterdam, which makes it possible to visit patients frequently.