In recent years, the Dementia Friendly America organization has taken off, in which many US states have started initiatives to promote “dementia friendly” communities. The idea is that, rather than institutionalize people with dementia, a better quality of life might be possible if people are able to remain a part of the community, as independent as possible. To keep people in the community, it takes the collaborative effort of all aspects of the town or city, from the health care systems to banks, restaurants, and law enforcement. For example, one part of the initiative is to encourage dementia friendly businesses in the community, where employees are trained to recognize when a person has dementia, communicate with that person, and know how to find resources for the person with dementia if needed. You can find a list of state-by-state resources here http://www.dfamerica.org/dfa-communities/
While the Dementia Friendly America programs are a good start, a few European cities have been able to undertake a much bolder, all-encompassing approach. Instead of trying to find ways to accommodate persons with dementia into an existing community, an entire village is created – designed from the ground up with memory problems in mind.
Let’s take a closer look at an experimental village in southwest France. Set to open in 2019, this 12-acre facility is a scaled-down town, complete with things like a restaurant and grocery store as well as a garden and farm where residents can stay active with interesting, productive tasks. The facility will be secure as a whole, but will allow the kind of freedom of movement between home and the community that people are used to having. The village will incorporate research measures into the daily life to gauge the effectiveness of this living situation compared to a traditional nursing home. Check out these stories for more details:
Personally, I get really excited reading about these rather radical approaches to making not only a safe place to live, which is the main goal of a skilled nursing facility (aka nursing home), but also a rich, vibrant, fulfilling place to live, which is often lacking at these facilities. I will be anxious to see the results of this and other similar experimental memory villages. If successful, hopefully we will see these in the United States in the not so distant future, as well!
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