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  • Going Back in Time to Help Dementia Patients


    Over 1.3 million people currently live in Nursing facilities across the United States. Out of that number, over 54% are diagnosed and living with Dementia in various forms. We have all heard the stories of panicked episodes, acting out, and even violence from patients who experience symptoms which can be triggered for a variety of reasons. What we do know is that often these tactics don’t work. Restraining the patients, putting them in lockdown wards, may help keep them physically safe – but can have far reaching consequences for them and the staff who care for them.

    Luckily, some countries in Europe have gotten ahead of the curve and are introducing some novel and unique environments for Dementia patients, and they’re really clever! Since we know in nearly all cases when symptoms and memory loss appears, it’s short term memory most affected. So what’s a forward thinking group of caregivers to do? Create an environment specifically tailored to a time period roughly 50 years ago.

    Swansea’s Cefn Coed Hospital in Wales has a 20-bed all-male wing called the Derwen Ward. Staff in this ward focus specifically on ways to care for and entertain elderly men, individuals from a particular generation who worked long hours of manual labor and then relaxed at the local pub with their buddies. The hospital couldn’t open a real pub for them to visit, of course, but it was able to do the next best thing.

    The Derwen Arms pub was launched by Griffin and ward manager Kath Protheroe. It features non-alcoholic beer, so nobody gets drunk or has to worry about their medications not mixing well with their favorite drink, and the darts are plastic and can’t hurt anyone. And since they don’t have to leave the hospital to get to it, there’s no need to arrange for transportation or check in and out of the hospital.

    In Holland, innovators have taken things several steps further with the introduction of De Hogeweyk, an entire village crafted and inhabited by patients with Dementia. The idea, explains Hogeweyk's creators, is to design a world that maintains as much a resemblance to normal life as possible—without endangering the patients.

    Hogeweyk, from a certain perspective, seems like a fortress: A solid podium of apartments and buildings, closed to the outside world with gates and security fences. But, inside, it is its own self-contained world: Restaurants, cafes, a supermarket, gardens, a pedestrian boulevard, and more.

    Residents are able to move freely, socialize, and very much live as normal a life as possible, under the unobtrusive but watchful eye of physicians and staff.

    These concepts may seem radical, but they are proving wildly effective for calming residents, reducing anxiety and the dreaded ‘sundown’ effect. What are your thoughts regarding this unique approach?

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