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While there has been an ongoing debate for decades in the United States and its European counterparts about different approaches to health care, there is one particular area where the Europeans, or in this case, the Dutch, wins hands down, and that is their innovative approach to taking care of their citizens with dementia.

That’s the conclusion of Irma Toce, the C.E.O. of the Londonderry on the Tred Avon retirement community in Easton, based on her personal experience as an expatriate from Holland whose grandmother was a victim of dementia in the 1970s. From those early days to the present, Irma has watched with amazement as the Netherlands has moved to the forefront of innovative care for those suffering from acute memory loss.

Even though Toce’s day-to-day responsibilities at Londonderry rarely involves issues related to dementia, she has spent a considerable amount of her career studying the condition, and has joined others in attempting to end the crippling stigma that comes with it. In her frequent trips back to Holland to visit family, she has also kept up with her former country’s latest developments in care.

Perhaps the most exciting of these for Irma has been the creation of “dementia villages” in Holland. Housing approximately 200 residents each, these heavily secured facilities entirely replicate the essential elements of a community, including independent living for residents, coffee cafes, restaurants, art galleries, gift shops, bars and a grocery store all within a controlled safe zone. Those within the village can continue to maintain their lifelong habits of shopping or meeting friends for drinks without the risk of getting lost or harming themselves.

In her first Spy interview, Irma talks about her most recent visit to a dementia village and the extraordinary benefits its residents receive from this new model of care. Research data confirms that those placed in these facilities experience need far less medication, live much longer, and are considerably “happier” than those in a traditional nursing home setting. With those facts in hand, Irma continues to fight her campaign for similar approaches in this country.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about dementia and its care, please go here.

(This is a repost of the October 17, 2016 article by Dave Wheelan that appeared in The Talbot Spy)