Korongee dementia village, currently under construction in Tasmania, reflects the latest thinking on the very best ways to care for people who are living with dementia.

With Australia’s dementia population expected to reach 1.1 million by 2056, how we care for people who are living with the condition is something that will affect most Australians in the future, if it hasn’t already.

HelloCare spoke to Lucy O’Flaherty, CEO of Glenview Community Services, the organisation behind one of the first dementia villages to be built in Australia, Korongee.

Care delivered in a village environment

“The key difference with Korongee is that dementia care will be delivered within a village environment,” Ms O’Flaherty said.

The village incorporates a café, supermarket and a central boulevard. As well as the commercial hub, Korongee will have 12 small houses, each with eight bedrooms and each staffed by care professionals who will reinforce an authentic home-like environment.

These factors “set it apart from the standard model of care”, Ms O’Flaherty said.

“It highlights the significance of living in small houses with people whose values you share and have something in common with,” she said.

“In large buildings, the sense of institution is unavoidably present when you walk through the front door and any well-meaning ideology can easily be lost.

“With a village like Korongee, you walk into small homes, all with dementia design principles throughout, and a sense of the everyday is much easier to maintain,” she explained.

European influence

Korongee is influenced by a range international dementia care models, particularly the Hogeweyk dementia village in the Netherlands.

Ms O’Flaherty visited Hogeweyk in 2014 and was inspired by the health and wellbeing benefits the village had made to people who live there.

Residents can make their own decisions about life

Residents of Korongee will be encouraged to continue living their lives according to their usual routines and interests.

“Korongee’s design will make it possible for residents living with dementia to walk around the village and participate in everyday life decisions which are presently not always available to those in traditional residential based dementia care,” Ms O’Flaherty said.

Residents will be able to go to the café to buy a coffee, or simply head to the supermarket to buy groceries for dinner, whenever they choose.

“Life at Korongee will still have essential elements of residential care, but with the additional embedding of everyday routines into the running of the small houses and the village.

“Residents will be encouraged to help with the food shopping and cooking and will be able to move freely within the gated community, allowing them to maintain a sense of belonging and being valued,” Ms O’Flaherty said.

Korongee will host 96 residents and those who will be able to live there will be eligible for residential aged care and living with dementia.

An “overwhelming” response

Ms O’Flaherty said the response to Korongee has been “overwhelmingly positive”.

“It presents the opportunity to do something different, but we need to ensure that we don’t over promise and under deliver, which is why so much time has gone into the research component behind the village,” she said.

The ways we care for people living with dementia are evolving as we learn more about the condition. Creating a home-like environment, allowing for the dignity of risk, understanding the person’s life story, and person-centered care have all emerged as important ways we can improve the quality of life for those who live with dementia.

“Korongee and other new models of care mark a change in the way we deliver dementia care,” Ms O’Flaherty said.

“There is a movement that’s gathering momentum across the country in response to changing the way we think about dementia and the way we care for people living with dementia, and we’re honoured to be a part of that movement.”

Korongee is expected to open in the middle of 2020.

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