Alzheimer’s Village Allows Patients To Roam Freely: Why Is Environment Crucial To An Alzheimer’s Brain


France is building a $28 million facility for Alzheimer's patients, allowing them to shop, farm, and socialize at their own pace and time.

The complex, which can accommodate about 120 patients, will operate in 2019. The so-called Alzheimer's village offers various amenities such as a gym, a restaurant, a farm, and shops. The facility, located in the city of Dax, has no visible fence but with secured pathways.

The medical caregivers and staff do not wear the typical white uniform that gives patients the feeling of being in a hospital.

"There won't be any white coats in the village. We wanted the patients to feel at home in an environment that could remind them of life in the good old days," Gabriel Bellocq, former Dax mayor, told a local newspaper.

Creating A Suitable Environment

The village is inspired by an experiment conducted in the Netherlands and has the approval of the Regional Agency of Health and the Ministry of Health. Authorities said the program allows a better understanding of the evolution of Alzheimer's disease, which affects 8,000 people in France.

Alzheimer's disease commonly affects the elderly. Its causes are still unknown and no cure is yet available, according to the UK's National Health Service.

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia in which patients suffer from a decline in neurological functions, including memory and reasoning. Bellocq said that patients in the Netherlands program experienced longer life expectancy and improved overall well-being.

Why Is Environment Crucial To Alzheimer's Patients?

The environment is an important factor in the health of patients with dementia disorders such as Alzheimer's. Since Alzheimer's patients have difficulty remembering things, experts said familiarity with their environment gives them a feeling of reassurance.

Keeping the lights on can prevent accidents while reducing the noise makes them feel more comfortable.

"Increase natural light in a room by making sure the curtains are open and that unnecessary nets or blinds are removed. Cut back hedges or trees if they overshadow the window and block out sunlight. Lighting is particularly important on the stairs and in the toilet. Light switches should be easily accessible and straightforward to use," the NHS advised.

In a study published 2015 in the journal BMC Palliative Care, researchers explored the views of people with dementia, their family, and professional carers toward the role of a physical environment in supporting a good quality life.

Analysis of focus group discussions among people with dementia nearing the end of life and their families said they feel comfortable in an environment that is calm, has a home vibe, and has technological tools to remain connected.

The researchers also noted that the environment should allow patients to feel a sense of privacy and dignity. Other environmental features should also maximize independence, enhance self-esteem and confidence, reinforcement of personal identity, and control for stimuli.

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