Dementia: The Brains Trust, Episode 3 – Care villages offer new approach

It’s cruel, deadly and doesn’t discriminate, but no one wants to talk about dementia.

Lisa Burns, national spokeswoman for Dementia New Zealand, says it’s crucial we confront dementia.

“My grandmother died from it.

“So many people are affected by dementia, it’s like a stone in a pond that has a huge ripple effect.

“The diagnosis of someone with dementia is just not the diagnosis of an individual, it’s of a whole family, the community that’s where the four out of five people affected comes from.”

To understand what it is like to live with dementia, New Zealand Herald visual journalist Mike Scott took a simulation test along with staff members from Summerset at Karaka Rest Home to “walk in the shoes” of someone living with dementia.

“It is designed to be confusing. They put on goggles so vision is distorted, they wear gloves so that restricts movement, headphones with loud static noise and stones in shoes to throw off balance,” Burns said.

Scott, whose father died from dementia three years ago, said the experiment “sucked big time”.

“I would give up. This is too hard. I would shut down. You are struggling to make everything work and if it’s not making sense, it would be incredibly frustrating to watch me function like this. I would be annoyed at myself.”

With an ageing population, dementia is on the rise and so are care villages.

Therese Jeffs, who manages The Care Village in Rotorua, was influenced by a pioneering Dutch model in De Hogeweyk. There are six people in each house which caters to their previous lifestyles: classical, living, middle New Zealand, simple living, cultural. All residents are involved in normal household chores.

“What we have done is we’ve taken people as they get older out of their homes and put them in an institution. Their only crime is they got old.

“The residents here are calmer, they are more settled and we don’t have the behavioural issues. People are free to walk around.”

Dementia: The Brains Trust – The full series

Supported by NZ On Air

Episode 1 – Deborah and Anne Pead: ‘She’s my mum and I love her – but mentally there’s nothing there’

Episode 2 – Warwick and Pummy Hickling: ‘In sickness and in health’ – the love story of Warwick and Pummy

Episode 3 – Care villages offer new approach: Can’t see, can’t hear, no balance – Mike Scott learns what dementia feels like

Episode 4 – Rita Marx and the Māori way: ‘I think everyone could see my mum had dementia except me’

Episode 5 – Mike, Bob and Christine Scott: ‘My daughter’s name is Christine’

Episode 6 – Mike Scott’s MRI scan: ‘This MRI scan could tell me if I’ll get dementia. Do I want to find out?’

Where to get help

If this content has raised any concerns for you, please see your GP or contact:

Dementia New Zealand
0800 433 636

Alzheimers New Zealand
0800 004 001

• If it is a medical issue and you need advice, call Healthline on 0800 611 116.

• Call 111 in the event of an emergency.

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