What we can learn from how Denmark looks at dementia

In Denmark, the underlying philosophy of elder care is that every man and woman – no matter how ill they are – has the right to choose how they want to live.

Denmark — along with neighboring Sweden — is regularly considered among the best countries to grow old in, and for good reason. Maintaining independence and dignity with age is of utmost importance to both the country’s citizens and government.

Lotte is Denmark’s most famous nursing home, and has become an international shrine for people looking for alternative and inclusive care for those living with dementia. The big brick house located on the west side of Copenhagen houses 23 men and women, living together as a family – and 70 per cent of them have dementia.

The residents cook and eat meals together, drink wine, and they even go on Caribbean vacations. The family cat sits next to their dining room table. And, perhaps most importantly, they aren’t treated as if they are ‘sick’. If a patient has a tendency to fall when walking, for instance, he wears a helmet, but doesn’t necessarily stop going for walks. If the appropriate precautions are taken, residents can often maintain much of the same habits and hobbies they’ve always had. The goal is to keep them, as much as possible, active and involved in the world around them.

Lotte’s first leader – Thyra Frank – is beloved for her work there, and her progressive attitude toward the treatment of dementia. And despite Denmark suffering from the same economic woes as the rest of Europe, Lotte is fully funded by the Danish government – the country makes elderly care a priority.

Canada, and many other countries throughout the world, could learn a lot from Denmark and Frank. The elderly thrive in this environment, as many studies have proven the importance of social activity and independence as we age.

Listen to the full radio documentary below: