Dementia care expert, Tamar Krebs, shares her recent findings from a trip to the Netherlands
The Netherlands has moved away from the 'instiutional' model of aged and dementia care that dominates Australia. There are different models of care which focus on dignity. There are normal lifestyle communities and 'care farms' where people can still cook, enjoy gardening and reduced activities.
'Humanitas' are apartments for life. These redefine the nursing home model completely. It's not all about cure and care. It's about conversations with people, engaging in life and enjoying a spectacular environment with interesting conversation, activities and engagement.
Tamar met with Humanitas Chairman, Dr. Hans Becker. Becker joined the Rotterdam-based housing association, Humanitas, in 1992. Previously he was a professor at the Erasmus School of Economics for 25 years. As Chief Executive of Humanitas Dr Becker set about replacing nursing homes, which he has described as ‘islands of misery’, with ‘Apartments for Life’ where the emphasis is on conviviality, self-determination, and empowering residents to live their lives to the full.
Under his leadership, Humanitas went from making a loss to a surplus of €54m, which was reinvested in renovation, decoration and new homes. Humanitas now has more than 3,000 apartments on over 30 sites throughout the Netherlands, where many of the amenities in the ‘village square’ of each complex are open to the public.
Tamar Krebs adds: "In the Netherlands, they try and keep people in their local communities – no matter what their level of frailties. However, when they get dementia, the idea is to introduce them into social models in the community– such as Group Homes – whereas in Australia, you wind up in a nursing home. "
Tamar Krebs brought the Group Homes Australia model of aged and dementia care to Australia in 2012. She worked in aged care institutions for 15 years where people were toileted, showered and fed at specific times. She deems these 'human warehouses'. At Group Homes Australia, residents wake up when they choose to do so, can shower at the time of day that they prefer, wear the clothes they used to wear, enjoy activities that they have always enjoyed and eat what and when they prefer.
Group Homes Australia homes are situated in local communities so that people can still live in their familiar communities.
Tamar says: "Our GHA homes are beautiful already – but we would like to personalise the homes even more. Humanitas introduced the concept of creating a space that ‘brings them back’ to their long term memories – by using meaningful artefacts from their generation / period around the home. These artefacts help them to adjust. This simply isn’t feasible in large nursing homes."