Today’s technology and the environments we create are helping those with dementia in new and rewarding ways. We explore one model that is on the rise.
According to a 2016 report, 1 in 75 New Zealanders currently experience some form of dementia. Although dementia is not a normal part of the ageing process, it is more common for people over the age of 65, and 1 in 3 people over the age of 90 have it. There is currently no cure for dementia.
The Ministry of Health acknowledged the need to focus on improving the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers, families and whānau by identifying key action areas (Google improving-lives-people-dementia).
In the Netherlands, Hogewey Dementia Village has a unique concept and home to over 150 people with severe dementia. Residents live a seemingly normal life, but are actually being supervised by caregivers at all times. Within a fully secure environment residents are free to roam around, visiting shops, getting their hair done or being active in one of the 25 clubs available at Hogewey. There are almost twice as many caregivers as residents in the village and they staff everything from the grocery store to the hair salon.
Locally, Summerset have been trialling a new dementia care model and have recently opened their new generation ‘Memory Care Centre’ at their Cavendish village in Christchurch. As well-established leaders in dementia care, Summerset is proud to be opening the doors to their brand-new memory care centre in Cavendish. Summerset’s vision for their new centre is to enable people living with dementia to continue to lead active, positive lives in a safe and homely environment.
While they already have a memory care facility in Levin, this new centre uniquely capitalizes on a biophilic design scheme. Fundamentally, the design connects residents with nature through natural lighting, earth tones and natural landscape features. Summerset say this connection enhances residents cognitive function, physical health and psychological well-being.
A key feature of the centre is a specifically designed sensory room. Hosting New Zealand’s first interactive light table from Netherlands, a Tovertafel, they hope this feature will help dementia residents experience happiness by promoting mental stimulation, social interaction and physical activity.
Residents at Summerset stay in apartments, each with a double bedroom, ensuite bathroom, living area and kitchenette. Many people living with dementia are still active so their apartments are sized to allow for freedom of movement and space for personal belongings.
The layout of the centre also incorporates unique features to assist with wayfinding. Included in this is a circular design, wall murals, personalised apartment doors and colour coding for amenities.Furthermore, safety is prioritised for residents through hidden buttons for boiling water, and induction cooktops in kitchens. Their aim is monitoring technology, and preventing unnecessary accidents, will give residents both the protection and independence they need.
Finally, specialist staff are employed by the care centre. With extensive knowledge of dementia, they hope this brings a passion for care to their centre.
Village Manager Stephanie Meehan says families have been quick to praise the design, recognising the value of resident safety, comfort and happiness. She attests “every design element, every safety feature, has been allocated very purposely for the intention of caring for those with dementia.” When families first see the features on offer, she claims they can be very emotional.
She says they frequently note the comfort of setting their mum or dad up just as they would at home. Residents can continue their normal daily duties such as vacuuming, helping in the kitchen and gardening to help with a sense of normality. She believes this makes the move into the care centre easier as their lives can continue just as they did outside of it.
For Summerset, an important part of their service is catering to each person’s individual needs. When Care Centre manager Roxane Will saw residents craved the satisfaction of nurturing a pet, they decided to adopt this into the design. The introduction of two female canaries to the Memory Care unit has since been met with absolute delight, giving residents a sense of purpose.
Stephanie says many residents now sit outside to reminisce about their childhood pets, and others take great in care in feeding and caring for the birds. She describes this experience as a blessing, privileged they get to make such a special difference in the lives of residents.