A concept based on a “dementia village” in The Netherlands will soon become a reality in the U.S. as a way to incorporate on-site reminiscence therapy into daily care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
The “Town Square” concept, being developed and envisioned by San Diego-based Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers, is loosely based on the residential Hogewey community in Wheesp, near Amsterdam, where, as The Atlantic put it after a 2014 visit, “everyone has dementia.” There, residents of the community can visit the local post office, bus stop and town square, which are designed to look and operate like they would have in the 1950s.
The vision for the Town Square is similar, though it will be available as an adult day care program, rather than a residential village.
“The idea is to bring residents back to a time in life when their memories were the strongest,” says Lisa Tyburski, Glenner’s director of business development. “Back to when they were married and having kids.”
Glenner’s Town Square will be 1950s and ‘60s themed, allowing for visitors to interact with vintage cars, storefronts and other tangible props used to spark memories.
While it has yet to break ground, the organization has selected a site near San Diego and has partnered with a developer on the project. Currently, Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers operates three day centers that can accommodate around 30 people each on a given day. The vision for Town Square is much bigger, Tyburski says, though all licensing will remain the same.
“It’s a lot bigger, so we can take care of a lot more people,” she says, noting that the square will remain open during the evenings for families to visit during the time of day when sundowning takes place and can be very challenging. It will also provide caregiver support programs and groups.
The site itself will be around 8,500 to 10,000 square feet, and Glenner has partnered with The San Diego Opera, among other organizations, that are helping with site construction. The Opera is assisting with set design and the San Diego Air and Space Museum is curating the Town Square’s museum storefront, for example. Glenner is seeking additional partners and other types of businesses to participate in an ongoing capital campaign to help fund additional developments in the same vein.
The cost to individuals will be around $95 per day for eight hours of care with an RN on staff at all locations at all times, with a cap of 75 visitors to the site at one time. The care to staff ratio is 1:5, although licensing requires 1:12, Tyburski says. Half-day programs are available for $65 per day, with a minimum requirement of one full day or two half days per week per person, and the time is scheduled to a specific program or activity, although visitors are free to wander and spend the time as they wish.
The Town Square will also be available to assisted living providers in the area, as a place where residents can visit during weekends as an alternative to a field trip or an on-site activity.
“We are seeing a need because day care is an up and coming care option,” Tyburski says. “A lot of people overlook it. We are trying to provide a better quality of life for people with dementia and provide a level of joy.”
Written by Elizabeth Ecker