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  • Text: Joost Bijlsma
  • Picture: Gerdien Wolthaus Paauw

Dementia Living Lab combines strengths

Care services and technology can make the lives of people with dementia very much easier. But anyone trying to test what works and what does not will find the target group hard to reach. “The Brabant Dementia Living Lab bridges the divide,” says program manager Jorn Leistra. “It runs projects based on ‘communities of practice’ in which dementia patients and their informal carers work alongside the professional field: care and education organizations, as well as the providers of specialist products.”

Never to old to learn

All activities are linked to research. “We work in association with Tranzo, Tilburg University’s center of expertise in health and wellbeing. A good example of a community of practice is the ‘Never too old to learn’ group, which supported Tranzo’s research into ways in which fourth-year nursing students at ROC Tilburg can help dementia patients to get to grips with modern technology.” The students used both new and established products.

“We can really help people”

Jorn Leistra, program manager Brabantse Proeftuin Dementie

For example, they taught patients how to use Skype to keep in touch with their children and grandchildren. Helping the elderly to use modern technology is now part of the nursing skills curriculum at intermediate level. “Never too old to learn is a good example of how we can really help people with dementia and the people who care for them,” says Leistra. “However, achieving a positive impact for the patients themselves is the most important component of the program. It must contribute to their quality of life.”

Commercial rivals cooperate

Another common feature of the program’s projects is cooperation. All combine the strengths of various partners. A prime example is Buitenhof, a day activity center in Tilburg (see photo). Here, three care organizations – Buitenhof, Thebe and De Wever – are working closely alongside each other. In other circumstances they would be commercial rivals but cooperation allows them to offer a greater number of activities than would be possible when working alone.

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