When Teun Toebes was 21, he moved into a care home for dementia patients. However, it wasn’t because he needed extra care himself. Instead, he planned to find out what it was really like to live in a nursing home – and, more importantly, how these facilities could be improved. Now, Teun is 24, and he’s publishing a book about his experiences. The most important thing he’s gained from his experiment? Lots of new friends!
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“I live with the most beautiful people,” he said, according to Express. “At the same time, they are all people with dementia. However, that is only one characteristic they all share and it is not their defining characteristic.”
Currently, Teun lives at Green Lanes Nursing Home in the Netherlands. After spending quality time with patients at this and other care homes in the area, he’s come to an important conclusion.
“We need to see people living in the nursing home as equal human beings,” he said.
One of the biggest issues that Teun has noticed is that many patients with dementia are forced to give up certain pleasures and comforts in exchange for a hazard-free environment.
“If people are living for only a month or a year – and the average stay in a nursing home is just eight months – then quality of life should be the most important aspect,” said Teun, who received a Master’s in care ethics. “Instead, the focus is on risk management, control and safety.”
The recent graduate also noticed that care homes offer a simulation of life rather than the real thing. For example, he’s found many facilities decked out with fake plants or screens that show images of nature. Meanwhile, real flowers and wildlife are nowhere to be seen.
“We have created a surrealistic environment full of digital butterflies, while the doors of the real garden are locked because we are afraid that something will happen,” he said.
While Teun realizes that dementia patients require an extra level of care that cannot always be provided for in the outside world, he also believes that these people have the same need for joy and stimulation as anyone else.
“Of course, as a person with a disease you have specific needs from that disease, but not all your needs as a human being are driven only by it,” he explained.
“The Housemates” by Teun Toebes is now available for purchase online and in book stores.
You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.
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