Dementia care

This is a first post in a series about the new project The Art and Science of Dementia Care, that started in October 2014. Commissioned by the Creative Industries Fund and care organisation Cordaan, the architects Henri Snel and Caro van Dijk organize co-creative labs about spatial design for people with dementia. On behalf of the Creative Care Lab, I participate together with Sabine Wildevuur in these labs.

How should my surroundings look like and behave when I would be suffering from dementia? What is my dream? Actually, as most people, I would never like to get in that situation. But together with specialists in health care, designers, architects and other researchers I will find out everything there is to know about reminiscence, walking frames, system ceilings, meal services and so on. All with the future in mind - as we face a challenge.

The Netherlands now has approx. 260.000 people diagnosed with dementia. This number will increase dramatically. According to the Alzheimer organisation in The Netherlands, by 2040 over half a million people will suffer from dementia. Dementia is a broad category of brain diseases that cause long term loss of the ability to think and reason clearly that is severe enough to affect a person's daily functioning. This feels still far away for me, but I realise that when I get older, I have a chance too to get Alzheimer. One in five people gets it. But the odds for me as a woman are even worse: one in three. Luckily I don't smoke - that helps, the statistics prove.

I don't want to wait and watch, but actively shape my dreams for later. Thinking of my grandma, who kept on asking when she could go home after she went to a care centre, I would like to do that differently. It want to feel at home and safe, even if I can't live in my own home any longer.

So it's not surprising that we all discussed the question: "What is (feeling) at home?" The things next to my bed? That warm rug that is covering me while I'm typing this? I don't think it's about knowing where you are. You may forget that. It should be about feeling just like home.

(This is an abbreviated version in English. For the full text, please turn to the Dutch version.)

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Helma van Rijn

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