I’m going to take a bit of a break from my normal ramblings about bugs, science, and weird random things to talk about something hugely important to me. Those that have known me for a long time know that I spent a significant amount of time employed as a nursing assistant. Split rather evenly between nursing facilities and home care I spent in total about 12 years dedicated to this. Though a few of my clients/residents were sound of mind and body, needing help with things such as cleaning, cooking, and shopping, the majority of my time, and by choice I might add, was spent with people with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or some other developmental disability. I worked with a few children but the vast majority were seniors, and that’s what I preferred. When I say I “by choice” I am quite serious. I vastly preferred working with someone with dementia than some one who was “”sane””. The facilities I chose to work at were dedicated to care for those with dementia. When providing home care those were the clients I would choose. Yes, this did often mean I would eventually be providing hospice an end of life care but that wasn’t so much of a burden as it was just a natural progression of things. Some people have problems with that but I never did. I couldn’t handle the kids, let them do it and every one will be happier for it, that’s what I thought.
The way we treat the elderly in our society is quite troubling to me and often confusing. We supposedly teach children to respect their elders but when things get too tough we ship them to a facility. Yes, in many cases the level of care needed and cost associated make it difficult to provide an idea home care scenario (and egregiously inefficient, money-grubbing way many private insurance companies handle these situations). Home care is great but, even in an idea situation, not always a possibility. A few years into my career as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) I began work at my first dementia-focused facility. When built the designers had a simple idea, make it resident-friendly. This line of thinking also played into the next place I worked at (for the record, I worked at both of these places for a time…why? because I’m insane). Circular designs allow for continued movement. Chairs and couches throughout providing resting areas when needed were in place and occasionally someone had a pet. Simple little touches made so much of a difference in the resident’s lives.
Taken to the next level (or a few levels) is a new “facility” in The Netherlands. It’s not so much a facility as it is a village. Yes, an actual village. Complete with shared apartments with live-in staff (in street clothes, not scrubs), supermarkets, etc. And while I may not care for all of the design elements incorporated and don’t particularly understand some of their choices, I brush that off to being cultural aesthetics or similar. Either way, this is some serious mind shifting in how we address the aging population and the fact that 1 in 3 seniors have dementia. When I say “aging population” I mean us. You and me and everyone who isn’t reading this rambling bambling blog. I’ve seen many times over the realization on a person face when then know their mental faculties are fading. When they realize they’re in a place that’s not their home but is. It broke my heart years ago and it still does. But breaking heart or no, reality needs to be addressed. Places like this need to get more air play. Designs and thinking like this needs to be more readily accepted and appreciated. Whether it’s your grandmother, your mother, or you, remember this will affect you.
Check out the Gizmodo article where I first learned about this.
Want to know more about Alzheimer’s disease or need some resources? Check out the Alzheimer’s Association website.