Living with Dementia and New Approaches

Posted on by Marsha Keller to Downsizing

Many elder care facilities include units that cater specifically to memory care, typically providing numerous structured activities within a secure environment. While today's long-term memory care facilities deliver a much higher level of service than traditional nursing homes, the demand for memory care is expected to keep escalating, promoting some experts to ask, "are there better ways to provide care?"

The search for answers has prompted the emergence of new therapies and new types of facilities, where the approach is aimed at reducing the need for medication, primarily by providing an environment that eases the frustrations of memory loss.

Familiar surroundings are emotionally and medically important to individuals experiencing memory issues. For example, one memory-care therapy incorporates sensory cues- touch, sight, smell and sound to help trigger memories. This approach is called "reminiscence therapy" and is gaining traction because sensory cues are more effective than asking questions. The calming nature of the familiar could explain why individuals experiencing memory issues often insist on staying in their homes.

Going one step further is Dementia Village. In the Netherlands there is a self contained village on four acres called Hogeweyk. It is roughly 50 residents living in a neighborhood of 23 homes. Each house is decorated in a unique style and residents are placed in a unit intended to create the most familiar surroundings for them. Styles include upper class, homey, indonesian, Christian, artisan and various cultural options.

Opening in the U.S. in 2018 will be a new breed in day care. It is called Town Square, which is a self-contained 1950's style town designed to make life easier for those suffering from dementia. This artificial city erected inside an 11,000 sq ft industrial building in San Diego, includes architecture, lighting, functional period interiors and even sounds that are consistent with that era. It will have a library, a restaurant serving hot meals, shopping venues, a hospital (with lifelike babies in the nursery and a real nurse on staff), a garage equipped with a 1959 T-birst for those who want to tinker, a pet store (with shelter puppies to cuddle), a sports bar, a museum, a park, a gym and a number of other ways to spend your day.

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