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Fully Equipped Village Allows Dementia Patients To Lead Normal, Independent Lives

02/09/2015 09:53 am ET | Updated Feb 10, 2015

A Dutch village allows patients with dementia to live their lives normally while also receiving proper care.

From the outside, Hogewey, located in the Netherlands, seems like any other village. It has a small grocery store, a theater and various restaurants and shops. But its residents all have dementia, and the town itself is actually a care facility. It was created with the aim to offer people with the disease care while giving them autonomy in their lives.

hogewey
Photo Credit: Hans Erkelens/Flickr

"Everything is arranged to give all residents all the care they need," Isabel van Zuthem, Hogewey's information officer explained to ABC News back in 2012, "But they feel like they're living a normal life, and that's what we think is very important."

apartment
Photo Credit: Hans Erkelens/Flickr

The community, which is only open to people who have been diagnosed with severe dementia, houses 152 patients in its 23 apartment units, according to Hogewey's website. Caretakers blend into the environment and live with the residents in their households. They also run the shops and services in town. Though patients are confined to Hogewey's grounds, they are free to roam around within, and enjoy many of the activities they would in a normal environment.

"Sometimes we shop, sometimes we listen to classical music," Jo Verhoef, a Hogewey patient, told the New York Times in 2012. "My father liked classical music. My father was the music man."

house
Photo Credit: Hans Erkelens/Flickr

While critics have claimed that the operation fools residents into living in a fantasy world, experts say that a key method to caring for people with dementia is through environmental approaches, which may make Hogewey a better option than other care systems, ABC News reported.

"In fact, I would argue that ethically this is a better solution than what we currently do, namely putting patients in 'mini hospitals' and pretending that this is an appropriate care environment," Dr. Paul Newhouse, director of Vanderbilt University's Center for Cognitive Medicine, told ABC News.

The residents seem to be benefiting from the facility's approach, and according to a report by CNN in 2013, patients in Hogewey eat better, take less medication and ultimately live longer.

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