Dementia Village


When my children were young, they used to play at running a cafe and set up everything – the toy teaset and cutlery, handwritten menus and bills. I was often corralled in to be a patron, and made to order and eat up and pay up. When I wasn’t available or wouldn’t play, they just made do themselves. It gave me a pang to listen to them play at life – and what would you like to eat? Any drinks with that? Here’s your food. Bon appetit! 

There is an award-winning home for persons with dementia somewhere in Europe. It has beautiful apartments and gardens, where the residents can walk about and wander without “escaping”. Laid out like a little town, in this dementia residence, clients can visit the supermarket, restaurant and hair salon. Well-trained healthcare staff dress up as shopkeepers and unobtrusively observe and aid the persons with dementia (PWD). Any unsuitable purchases or payments are tactfully rectified without embarrassing them, and often without their knowledge.

I couldn’t understand it. I am sure I wouldn’t want to live in an segregated dementia village, where I am kept safe but essentially locked in, and given the delusion of freedom and free will. It smacks of condescension and play-acting. I don’t think I would want that, although I’m sure it is the best solution for some PWD. I should reserve judgement though, who knows what I’d want if and when my mind goes.

Instead of putting PWD into a village, perhaps we should bring the “village” into the community. How do we do this? This video from UK (May 2014) suggests how persons with mild dementia may get by “with a little help from friends”. A story here from Japan tells of how an entire community chips in to look out for an elderly woman with moderate to severe dementia who wanders for miles daily.

In short, whichever solution we choose, PWD ought to be able to live out their lives with dignity and comfort in a safe environment. The same can be said for their caregivers.

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18 thoughts on “Dementia Village”

  1. Sometimes “away” is better for people with dementia! Shielding them from the callousness of the world is equally important, don’t you think? In an ideal world, sure, we’d have the “village” in our community…but we’re far away from that. The blatant insensitivity and sometimes the stupidity of people makes me so angry!! They think they’re helping a PWD by asking questions and stressing on remembering or even making fun of them! I keep telling people, they may not be able to express, but who knows how much they understand. I agree with you though…in the end whatever choice we make should ensure that PWDs and their families can live with dignity.

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    1. I agree with what you say, and I’m hoping that more people will learn about dementia and understand what it really means. This might be inevitable, as dementia touches most of us whether in our families and in close friends.

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  2. It would be lovely if there were kind souls who help the PWD in the rest of the world/at home but sadly that is a minority situation. The dementia village is leaps and bounds above having someone placed in a home. While in a certain amount of “confinement” it is safe and hopefully loving and respectful. The further their dementia advances the further they are into their own little world anyway so why not make it a good village.

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    1. Yes, the dementia village is so much better than a “home”. I wish we had good solutions that are easily replicated yet affordable for all PWD. We are in the process of advocating home care, and care by society in general here.

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  3. It is heartbreaking to care for a person with dementia, even more so when that person is your own parent. Like so many stages of life, dementia has its own stages. I think keeping a person comfortable is the most important. As far as dignity goes, the person has lost their dignity – through no fault of their own. I remember my mother’s dismay at seeing her own mother in dementia. Never imagining that she would be there herself. My own mother’s dementia got very different responses from each of my siblings. But then we were all in different stages of raising our own children. How do you make a choice between your own children and your parent? Life just works itself out. Every person’s situation is different. But the more options there are available gives the caregiver a chance for their own sanity. My generation of cousins is doing all they can to prevent their own dementia. We do talk about how to keep our minds.

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  4. I think this is one of the nicest articles I have read recently. Having worked with people with dementia in my practice, it would be so good to have a place like this. The families would be so comfortable with this, and the patients would be happy that they are in a state of Utopia. Only truly dedicated people can work in a village like this. Thank you for the profound and enlightening article. And thank you for your comment on my poems and posts.

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