In southwestern France near the city of Dax, a community has been created with the specific needs of its 105 residents - all of whom suffer from Alzheimer’s in varying stages.
“It takes a village to raise a child” says an old African proverb, but it seems that ancient wisdom may also hold true when it comes to caring for elderly Alzheimer’s patients. So, instead of placing them in traditional care units, some groups charged with the care of these special seniors are taking a more innovative 'village-like' approach, like the new residential home in southwestern France.
It’s the first such facility in France and has been built in the same spirit as De Hogeweyk, a purpose-built village for dementia patients in the Netherlands that opened in 2014 and served as a model for the rest of the world. In addition to nursing facilities, the Landais campus includes a grocery store, hair salon, cafeteria, library, and music room.
Residents are given as much freedom as their conditions allow, and treated to numerous entertainments. They’re also encouraged to participate in daily activities that can include shopping, cooking, and regular hair salon appointments, as it’s believed sticking to a familiar routine may actually hinder the advance of the disease’s worst symptoms.
“It’s like being at home,” 82-year-old Madeleine Elissalde, one of the village’s first residents, told Reuters. “We’re well looked after.”
The programme costs around of €6.5 million to run each year. Residents and their families contribute about €24,000 in annual fees, but more than half the total expense is subsidized by government authorities.
Sounds expensive but researchers at France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research believe that closely studying how such model conditions impact the progression of dementia may ultimately conclude the insights they gain for future treatment standards will be well worth the cost.
In the meantime, residents of villages in France, the Netherlands, and another prototype community in Canada are able to live out the remainder of their years with not only a measure of self-esteem, dignity, and sense of purpose but some true “liberté, égalité, et fraternité” as well.