What My Housemates with Dementia Have Taught Me
A heartfelt cry for humaner care from a young nurse
This highly topical book by a young man labelled ‘the Greta Thunberg of Healthcare’ immediately made waves and entered the Dutch bestseller list at number one. After an internship on a closed ward for dementia sufferers in a nursing home, Teun Toebes, aged just 21, made the bold choice of moving into one. He planned to spend time there, not caring for the residents as an outsider, but adopting their way of life.
As a young healthcare worker, Toebes is frustrated by today’s inhumane care for dementia patients. His aim is to think about how care for people with dementia can be improved, and revolutionize the way we, as a society, regard the illness. In a disarmingly frank manner, he describes the painful systems prevalent in healthcare. The clients often end up on closed wards after the death of their partner and are rarely able to leave the building. The architecture is characterless, the location often remote or awkwardly situated, and then there are the house rules, like the compulsory wearing of ‘safety’ belts that limit the wearer’s movements. Despite aiming for loving care, warmth has slipped from the system as it leans toward medicalization, undermining long-term human relationships.
From his unique perspective, Teun brings to life the very human cast of characters living on the ward and describes the warm relationships he has with them. The stories and experiences he has will leave no reader untouched. Based on heartfelt interactions, he describes the ways the clients’ lives still have meaning – from the chic cake-loving Clara to Ad with his craft beer, from Tineke with her sense of humour to Leny from Java with her favourite sofa.
This is an open, honest and intimate account of the (in)visible life in a nursing home, written by an enthusiastic care provider with an unbridled passion for his profession and an unprecedented amount of attention for the well-being of the residents. Toebes uses his pen with empathy, humour and an eye for detail, producing razor-sharp, heart-wrenching analyses of a world behind closed doors. Nursing Home is not only a book about the future of dementia, but also a book that should concern us all, with our twenty percent chance of suffering from it ourselves.