Care for elderly migrants with dementia


written by Frederic Lauscher

To improve care for people with dementia in The Netherlands a national platform called “Deltaplan Dementia“ tries to address and manage the topic of dementia. A lot of member organizations work together in an 8-year action plan (2013 to 2020) on that topic.

One part of the “Deltaplan Dementia” is the project “Dementiezorg voor elkaar” which means “dementiacare for each other”. The title makes clear, that care for people with dementia is a topic that involves the whole society as a solidary and caring community. It also is a clear statement that nobody should be left behind.

As part of this project I was invited by ENIEC member Jennifer van den Broeke to Utrecht to a meeting of directors and managers in elderly care. The topic of the meeting was “care for elderly with dementia”. Three speakers, including me, gave an input for the discussion. The meeting was moderated by Prof. Dr. Robbert Huisman. For me as the only German it was already a very intercultural experience to be in that meeting.

Beginning from the time of the meeting (in the late afternoon and early evening), the place of the event (a restaurant) and the food (very dutch) there where a lot of intercultural differences, although we live in neighbour countries, that have a lot in common.

What was very fascinating for me was again, how different solutions for the same challenges can be (in a good way). That’s what makes an intercultural experience like this very interesting. One example is the different view on the “mantelzorger” which means relatives or friends who do the care for their loved ones.

The fact alone, that there is a word in Dutch for it and not in German says a lot about how important a society sees that role in the care system. In Germany most care is not done by professionals usually even without any professional support. But we do not really help or support all those people doing the care or value as a society what they do.

Carolien Smits from the Windesheim University of applied science in Zwolle showed, that involving the “mantelzorgers” can bring a new quality to care. She told in her speech about a project that empowered a small group of migrants that did the care for their relatives. The effect was impressive. This small group was able to bring their problems and their needssustainable  on the table and on the political agenda.

Another speaker, Jan Kees Metz from Zorgroep Elde, introduced the nursing home “Wereldhuis” (Worldhouse). This is a nursing home, that claims to be unique in The Netherlands for its approach on intercultural care. I do not know if that is true, but again it was interesting to see how they try to involve different groups in the process of developing the idea of a real “Worldhouse”. For me it was clear to see that there was a clear mission and vision, that if it comes to reality really gives the chance to improve care for elderly migrants with dementia.

My part of the program was to give different perspective to the topic. My approach starts from a formulated axiom that the goal of every human being is to feel good. Based on that, good care helps people to reach that goal. Because human beings are diverse, the things that makes them feel good differ. From this perspective the cultural background is only one (important) aspect that influences the wellbeing. Good care in that sense is therefore always also good culturesensitive care

For what I have noticed in the discussion during the meeting, the very strict focus on the individual wellbeing is something that is developing in the Netherlands also. There are some obstacles to bring that into praxis, for example the strong role of the relatives or the very strict rules for safety for people with dementia, but professionals seem to develop a critical view on the paternalism that is the main reasons for that.

For me it was a very interesting experience to feel like a migrant surrounded by Dutch. It also showed me clearly, that we have to exchange between different countries. If you do not do that, you always hear the same things, caught in the bubble of your own countries system. Good solutions don’t fall from heaven, they are already on the streets. We only have to go there and find them.