Mimicking dementia village model marks descent into circus culture

NEW YORK: In a Dutch town about 20 kilometres outside of Amsterdam, a small community lives in what at first glance seems like a real-life version of The Truman Show.

Hogewey has a grocery store, a theatre and a barber shop. The only twist is that many of its 152 residents live unaware that their orderly community is actually a nursing home for people with severe dementia.

“We protect our residents from the unsafe world. They do not understand the world outside this because the outside world doesn’t understand them,” says Yvonne van Amerongen, an employee at Hogewey who also helped develop the concept.

Hogewey was officially opened in 2007, but the idea has now caught the attention of various health-care professionals outside the Netherlands.

Five years ago, it was seen as nirvana. But there is a growing army of critics.

At the benign end of the scale are the fadists. Their argument is that it was a cute solution for its time, and an improvement on the existing care home concentration camps.

The vehement critics claim Hogewey is a cross between a circus and a free range zoo. It hoodwinks humans and offers no redemption, respite or escape. The experiment attracts so many observers under the guise of education, it is akin to the Coney Island “babies in incubators” fun fare that became, for a while in the 1930’s, the biggest attraction in New York State.

The Hogeway experiment is already outdated.

Dementia is increasingly being managed in the community. The courts are less inclined to support any form of incarceration or restraint; some countries now outlaw locked environments and six peer-reviewed research papers show dementia detection rates in developed countries have already peaked.

The reality is that care methodologies lag client preference.

There remains in this country a grim determination to impose a care culture which the market is starting to resist.

The care home sector refuses to believe it will be the loser, but look all around. The battle is already lost.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email