In France, people with Alzheimer’s are trying out shared living in a home with dedicated help, providing them with security and stimulation.
In the northeast of France, individuals with Alzheimer’s or related cognitive disorders live together in a dedicated shared home, providing them with security and stimulation.
Marlène, 84, became the first tenant of the house which opened in February.
She had previously been dwelling in an individual residence but living alone had become challenging with the progression of her disease.
“She confused the people who came to clean, her belongings were moved around,” said her cousin Yolande, who had come to visit.
Her apartment, located in “a beautiful building” a few kilometres away, was on the first floor.
“She fell several times on the stairs” and even broke her wrist, added Suzanne, a longtime friend.
“She said, I want to live with a woman,” explained Yolande, who believed that Marlène would be better suited to shared living than residing in a nursing home. Nursing homes in France are facing heavy criticism in the wake of several scandals related to negligence and abuse complaints.
Marlène brought along her dog without whom she would have refused to move.
In the shared accommodation, she is able to chat in Alsatian with Odile, her new roommate who is the same age as her.
Both say they feel good in their new home: “We watch TV together, and we have friends, above all,” said Odile.
Jacqueline, 81, was in a nursing home before moving into the shared housing.
“In nursing homes, people regress more quickly,” Sandy Zeis, the interim manager of the facility, said.
As a trained caregiver, she has worked in nursing homes and sees a noticeable difference.
“We try to stimulate them, uplift them, help them daily,” she said, noting the activities the tenants take part in throughout the day.
The observation is shared by Audrey Birba who has been a home carer for three years.
With home care, “there is always a specific time” allocated for assistance, “30 minutes for bathing,” for example, whereas some patients need significantly more. “Here, we can take two hours if needed.”
A report from the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs in July also highlighted insufficient care for people with Alzheimer’s in nursing homes.
Other associations and companies have developed inclusive housing options for these people, offering an alternative to nursing homes or home care for the more than 1 million patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s in France.
In the corridor of this former hotel that has been transformed into shared housing, quotes, drawings, and even an “Alzheimer’s poem” adorn the walls.
“Don’t ask me to remember, don’t try to make me understand, let me rest,” reads one.
The accommodation has one living room and one dining table meaning the nine residents can live together, “to reestablish the family connection,” said Djamel Souami, CEO of CetteFamille, the company that manages the house.
Individuals with cognitive disorders spend even more time in common areas, according to Samuel Ahovi, Head of House Openings at CetteFamille.
Factoring in deductions from various aid groups and tax credits for individual employers – the tenants being the employers of caregivers in this case- the housing costs €2,200 per month on average, according to Mr. Souami.
Marlène’s room has a balcony overlooking the forest, much like her previous accommodation. Her new town also brings back childhood memories. Her parents owned a mobile home in the local camping site and she used to visit the area regularly.
Despite everything, Marlène’s cousin acknowledges that, in “moments of lucidity,” she would like to leave shared living and return to her life at home.
“She has memories, that’s normal. But they pass quickly.”