If you've cared for a loved one with dementia, you know how difficult it can be.
My own grandparents lived through the disease, and watching them transform before my eyes was very difficult.
But I'm not alone. More than 5 million people in the United States are living with dementia. And that number is only expected to go up as our population gets older.
While there are some habits that will help prevent the condition, one facility has its own surprising approach to treating patients with dementia.
Hogeweyk is a village of 150 people, within the town of Weesp, in the Netherlands.
Every day, the village's elderly residents wake up, go to the cafe, meet their friends for a drink, do some grocery shopping, and enjoy Hogeweyk's lovely gardens.
But all of the village's residents have advanced stage dementia.
In fact, the "village" is just a very large care home, designed to look like a small town.
The Phony Village
Hogeweyk has its own grocery store, a pub, a theater, and a post office.
The villagers are free to use real money (if they can) but usually pay with fake Hogeweyk money given to them at the start of every month.
While it may sound challenging, there's a team of nursing home employees on hand to help the residents.
They're just disguised as regular people - no white coats or smocks - to keep up the illusion.
Hogeweyk's director says the inspiration for the unique nursing home was creating an independent, almost normal way of life, compatible with severe memory loss.
And life in Hogeweyk has some surprising perks.
Life in the Village
While you may think it would be confusing to wake up in a strange town, the nursing home's residents seem very comfortable.
They live in group homes, each with its own live-in cook and assistant.
They're allowed to drink, although the staff "cut off" residents who overindulge.
And Hogeweyk's creative design encourages the patients to step outside, sit in the garden, and interact with their friends.
All that activity and socialising seems to help. Hogeweyk patients get more exercise and need less medication than patients at other homes.
The Future of Dementia Care
Since the concept of the model village was introduced in 2009, it has attracted a lot of attention.
Now, similar homes are popping up in other countries, as demand for a caring, engaging environment like Hogeweyk increases.
The village's director, Dr. Eloy van Hal, once said the question at the heart of Hogeweyk was, "What do we want for ourselves and our moms and dads?"
The fake village is a surprising answer, but you can't argue with results.
Would you like to live in a model village like this, if you had dementia?