The rise of the dementia village might be the future of care for people with Alzheimer’s

With the number of people suffering from dementia around the world expected to hit 76 million in the next decade, and the potentially restrictive high cost of medicines currently under clinical trial, the rise of the so-called dementia village appears to offer the best hope for sufferers of the devastating degenerative disease.

De Hogeweyk, a gated model village in Weesp, a small town close to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, is home to 152 elderly people with dementia. Its 23 houses have housed patients since 2009, when the idea became reality, and it has won several international awards for its model of care.

Roughly the size of 10 football fields, De Hogeweyk has its own town square, theatre, garden, and post office. There are no wards, long hallways, or corridors at the facility. Residents, all with severe cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, are given the chance to live seemingly normal lives, in groups of six or seven to a house that looks and feels like home, helping them to feel normal even in the midst of their disease.

Residents are cared for by 250 full and part-time geriatric nurses and specialists in this dementia town, who also hold occupations in the village, like cashiers, grocery-store attendees, and post-office clerks. Friends and family are encouraged to visit. Some come every day.

The village, primarily funded by the Dutch government and costing slightly more than $25 million to build, has operated virtually at full capacity since it opened nine years ago.

The cost of care is nearly $8,000 per month, but the Dutch government subsidises the residents, all of whom receive private rooms — to varying degrees. The amount each family pays is based on income, but never exceeds $3,600. Everything is included with the family’s payment plan, and there is no currency exchanged within the confines of the dementia village.

The need for dementia towns in the UK

To put it into perspective, a private room at a UK care home costs an average of £3,000 per month, or more than £30000 annually – a figure that’s put into stark perspective when applied to the rapid increase in dementia patients globally. By 2030, the number of people suffering from dementia around the world is expected to hit 76 million, which some estimate will cause an 85 percent increase in dementia-related healthcare costs worldwide.

It is no surprise, therefore, that governments, health authorities and healthcare providers around the world have all flocked to De Hogeweyk in the hopes of finding a blueprint for handling the global problem.

In the UK alone, an estimated 850,000 people suffer from dementia, and Alzheimer’s has become the leading cause of death for both men and women ahead of heart disease. And while potentially disease-modifying medicines are in the pipeline for Alzheimer’s – the most common cause of dementia – it is likely that the cash-strapped NHS will not be able to afford the £9billion cure, delaying or denying treatment to thousands of sufferers.

What the UK can learn from De Hogeweyk dementia village

More dementia villages around the world are set to follow De Hogeweyk, with projects underway in Australia, Germany, and the United States. British developers believe the concept is so good that it is planning its own dementia village, based in Canterbury, Kent. 

The 15-acre community, which is due to be completed by the end of 2020, is the brainchild of Corinthian, a Kent-based developer, and the care company Avante. There is also a similar scheme planned in Dumfries, Scotland.

“The concept might be the future of care for people with Alzheimer’s,” said Gaius Owens, Project Sales Director, who led a team from Blueleaf on a recent research trip to De Hogeweyk. “They have not found a cure for dementia, but have found a path that’s changing ideas of how to treat those who can no longer take care of themselves.

“Residents at De Hogeweyk require fewer medications, eat better, live longer, and appear more joyful than those in standard elderly-care facilities. It’s an amazing experience to mingle with and sit amongst those living with severe dementia but are happy and relatively content.”

The rise of the dementia village could change the traditional care home as we know it, with the potential for the De Hogeweyk concept to be replicated on a smaller scale in homes across the UK. One thing for sure, is we can continue to learn is how to increase wellbeing amongst dementia residents in care homes, to ensure their time spent there is as comfortable as possible.

If you have any questions about dementia towns and how to implement aspects of De Hogeweyk into your care home, then get in touch with us today. Alternatively, for the latest news in the care sector, head on over to our blog.

Share this post: