older man and woman on bench
Photo by Matthew Bennett

Bruce Gulland and Liz Waid tell about a modern way to treat dementia. But it is moral?

Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Bruce Gulland.

Voice 2  

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1  

Imagine waking up from sleep. But you do not know where you are. You have never seen this room before. You do not remember how you got here. It looks like a hospital room. A woman comes in. She is friendly. She seems to know you. But you have never met her before. She tries to give you medicine. You begin to get angry. Where are you? Why are you here? Where is your home, your family, your children? The woman will not tell you anything.

Voice 2  

This is an experience of a person with dementia. It can be difficult to care for people with dementia. But more and more people around the world are living longer. More people have a form of dementia every day. Some health experts even call it a global health crisis. New methods can help people with dementia live good lives. But are they moral? Today’s Spotlight is on dementia and its care.

Voice 1  

Dementia is a disease of the brain. It mostly affects older people. There is no single cause for dementia. And doctors do not know how to cure it. But they do know that it causes the brain to shrink. The mind stops working well. Dementia can be mild or severe. But all forms of dementia make it difficult to make new memories. Many dementia patients get confused very easily. They are unable to think clearly. People with dementia cannot always understand what is real or not.

Photo by Hermes Rivera
Voice 2

Most dementia patients cannot survive without care. But care can be very different from place to place. There is not one accepted way to treat dementia. In some countries, people do not even recognize dementia as a disease. It is just another part of getting old. In many places, families care for older family members with dementia at home. But this can very difficult. Many dementia patients become angry and resist care.

Voice 1  

But some people are not able to care for family members with dementia. Some families put their older family members into special hospitals. These are called nursing homes. In a nursing home, dementia patients receive special care. But they are also away from everything they have ever known. It can be a painful, lonely experience.

Voice 2  

Yvonne van Amerongen did not like either of these choices for care. She is from the Netherlands. She helped create a new and different place for people with dementia. When she was younger, Van Amerongen worked at a nursing home. Many of her patients had dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. Van Amerongen saw how traditional treatment was very difficult for patients with dementia. They did not seem to be able to live happy lives. Van Amerongen felt that there had to be a better way. In 2013 she told the news organization CNN:

Voice 3  

“It was when my mother called me, and told me my father had died suddenly. Nothing was wrong with him. He just had a heart attack and he died. One of the first things I thought was ‘Thank God he never had to be in a nursing home.’ That is crazy that I have to think that! I manage a nursing home, and I do not want my father to come here.”

Voice 1  

Van Amerongen found other care experts who felt the same way. They decided that the problem with nursing homes was not in the care. Instead, it was in the homes themselves. Together, they designed a new place for treating dementia. They called this place Hogewey.

Voice 2  

Hogewey is different than a hospital. It is a village where people with severe dementia can live normal lives. People live together in houses. The patients have friends and neighbors. There is a town square, a theatre, a garden, and a post office. People with dementia often get lost. But patients in Hogewey can go anywhere they want. It is completely safe for them. Cameras also watch the patients there. Care givers and doctors in this village look like normal people. They wear normal clothes so they do not worry the patients.

Photo by Andreea Popa
Voice 1  

Hogewey opened in 2009. Today, it is one of the most celebrated dementia treatment centres in the world. In 2013, CNN reported that the patients in Hogeway live longer. They need fewer medicines. And they seem as if they enjoy life.

Voice 2  

Many villages like Hogeway have opened in Japan, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the USA. Each village looks different. That is because each dementia patient comes from a different culture. But to the patient, these villages feel like home. Marjolein de Visser is a social worker at Hogewey. In 2013, she told CNN,

Voice 4  

“In here, people can be themselves. They can be human. They are not just people with dementia. They are just people. And they can do what they like.”

Voice 1  

Some people say that these dementia villages are the future of dementia care. But dementia villages are not perfect. They cost a lot of money. And dementia villages do not have rooms for very many people. There are also people who think Hogewey is fooling dementia patients. This village is not a real village. It may even be a lie. Julian Hughes is a scientist that discusses medical ethics. He helps decide if some ways of care are moral or not. In a 2009 report from Nuffield health, he said

Voice 5  

“It is troubling when a village like this, or parts of it, are not honest. Patients who know something is not right could become upset. Or stop trusting caregivers.”

Voice 2  

People like Hughes believe that Hogewey dementia patients cannot be in real society where they are. People watch them all of the time. And their care givers hide the truth. But Van Amerongen believes that Hogewey is not like this. Patients there are happy. She says no one in Hogewey is acting and there is no lie. She believes that dementia villages provide the best care in a difficult situation.

Voice 1  

What do you think? Are places like Hogewey lying to their patients? Is the care they receive worth more than the truth? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 2  

The writer of this programme was Dan Christmann. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this programme and voiced by Spotlight. This programme is called ‘Dementia Care.’

Voice 1  

Look for our listening app in the Google Play store and on iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight programme. Goodbye.


Is it better to be happy or to know the truth? Write your answer in the comments below.

Join the discussion

  • I think what matter is to be happy, what is the benefit of the truth if it make me sad or un happy !. And for the people who have dementia disease will not remember the truth ever if u told them, so where is the benefit of the truth here?

  • I think it is better to be happy. Because everything has to be exchanged. I think everybody in Hogewey wants to bring the most fun and comfortable experience to the patients.

  • I believe that accepting the truth can be extremely difficult at times. For example, cancer is a disease that causes people to believe that everything has disappeared, that they have been disappointed, that they no longer have faith in their lives, and so why do we have to tell the truth when it is not always necessary? This is a unique situation, and we need to take everything into consideration before speaking the truth.

  • Often I prefer to be happy and I hate to know the truth because this reality cause me many problems lead to give me a negative energy like stress, anxiety, worry all this cause many diseases.So I choose to be happy and I don’t know truth. Because happiness it’s very important in my life makes me a strong girl and I can face all the damage and I live in a peacful.

  • Hi Spotlight , I’m very interested in this topic because I agree with them about Hogewey villages . But the truth is very cost for poor patients who got dementia. We should make many different villages like Hogewey but for everybody who can treated this service even no fee for them. I thought that there will be a lot of people who will willing to help the patient dementia . It’s just my opinion , thank you so much !

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