In a fascinating medical/social initiative, the Village Landais Alzheimer (Landes Alzheimer’s Village) in France took in 105 individuals with early to late-stage Alzheimer’s to study whether having them grouped together in a micro-village setting could help ease symptoms of the disease. The project, which is ongoing from 2020 until 2025, aims to provide better care for Alzheimer’s patients and to extend the average prognosis after a diagnosis.
How Can Communal Village Life Help?
As dedicated as the staff may be, conventional Alzheimer’s care facilities have an inevitably clinical appearance, thus sending a clear message to residents that they are unable to care for themselves. This signifies a brutal break with one’s past that can be quite detrimental to the very people that the institution is trying to help.
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A village that provides surroundings similar to the outside world, on the other hand, can ensure that the patients have a more relaxed, low-stress environment. It can provide them the freedom to interact with others or do routine daily activities as they please yet in a way that is still safe.
At such a village, residents can go shopping and get their hair done on their own, thus giving them back a sense of independence and self-sufficiency. The village has a dining room, library, and music room as well as a store with fresh produce, flour, and chocolate.
The consistency of the daily reference points in the town have shown some promise in helping stabilize memory loss and allowing those with Alzheimer’s to live more independent lives. Indeed, patients at the village have been requiring less medication than they had previously, and their visiting family members have reported positive feedback about their condition.
The Implications of Such a Village’s Success
Scientists, specifically from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, are closely monitoring data obtained from this experimental village because it could indicate potential effective ways of treating the disease using environmental factors. It could thus further call into question how much of dementia is a result of disease and how much is a result of how we treat it.
What Can Be Learned From Such Villages
A study conducted by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health found that such villages, which have been modeled after the De Hogeweyk village in the Netherlands, have certain elements in common that can also be integrated into existing care models for people with dementia. These include a physical design that truly accommodates the needs of the residents; small-scale, home-like group living to encourage social interaction and participation in daily life activities; and easy access to outdoor space and gardens. Perhaps the most transformative factor cited by the study, however, is the importance of leadership that has the vision and commitment to implement changes to existing care models.
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