Life with dementia: alternative forms of housing are urgently needed

Dementia gets its name from the Latin words de, or “without,” and mens, or “mind,” which join to mean “madness”, although in English, dementia is not the same thing as madness. In general, dementia is a term for reduced mental abilities severe enough to impair those affected in carrying out their daily lives. There are currently around 1.6 million patients with dementia in Germany. Two-thirds of those affected have already reached the age of 80, and most of them are women. A distinction can be made between primary and secondary dementia, but mixed forms also occur. In the case of most progressive dementias, including Alzheimer’s, there is no cure and no treatment to slow or stop progression. Prevalence rates rise steeply with age. As a result of demographic change, the number of dementia patients is rising continuously, making the clinical picture of dementia more important.

Care structures for dementia patients

If there is no breakthrough in prevention and therapy, the number of people with dementia will increase to 2.4 to 2.8 million by 2050 according to various predictions of population development which corresponds to an average increase in the number of patients by 25,000 to 40,000 per year. This poses a challenge for outpatient care services because people with dementia are mainly cared for in their own homes. Often, relatives are also involved in the care, as many dementia patients do not move into a nursing home until the disease progresses. Not all outpatient care systems are sufficiently adapted to the different needs of those affected, so new care models are increasingly being developed. In recent years, the residential form of dementia shared apartments (“Demenz-WGs” in German) has become established which is also reflected in the development of the market situation.

Dementia shared apartments – an alternative to nursing homes

In an outpatient assisted living community for people with dementia, usually six to a maximum of twelve people share a large apartment. They are cared for by an outpatient nursing service which is responsible for nursing care (basic and nursing care), social care and household chores. The patients are represented by relatives, legal guardians or authorized representatives. They are officially tenants, determine the furnishings and design of the apartment and can come and go as they please and receive visitors. There are now more than 10,000 places in dementia shared apartments across Germany, a figure that is still far too low, however, in view of the rising numbers of patients and the advancing prevalence. Nonetheless, providers in outpatient care have recognized the potential of these shared apartments and are expanding their capacities.

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