“They regress less than in nursing homes”: in Baerenthal (Moselle), people suffering from Alzheimer’s or related diseases live together in a shared house dedicated to people with cognitive disorders, providing them with security and stimulation.
Being over 80 and living in shared accommodation: that was the wish of Marlène, 84, who lived in individual accommodation until the beginning of the year and was the first tenant of the house, which opened in February.
But with illness, living alone became complicated: “She confused the people who came to clean, they moved her things“, says his cousin, Yolande, who came to visit him.
His apartment, although it was located in “a nice building” a few kilometers away, was on the first floor. “She fell down the stairs several times” and even broke his wrist, adds Suzanne, a long-time friend.
“She said: +I want to live with a woman+“, remembers Yolande, who believes that her life plan was more towards shared accommodation than towards an accommodation establishment for dependent elderly people (Ehpad). She also brought her dog, her “darling”, without whom she would have refused to move.
Like two friends, she chats in Alsatian with Odile, her roommate of the same age. They laugh, often. Remain thoughtful, sometimes. Both say they feel good in their home: “We watch TV together and we have friends, especially“, insists Odile.
Jacqueline, 81, was in a nursing home before joining the shared housing in Baerenthal.
“In nursing homes, people regress more quickly“, according to Sandy Zeis, interim manager of the shared house. A trained care assistant, she has worked in a nursing home and sees a notable difference: “We try to stimulate them, raise them, help them” on a daily basis, she explains, with activities throughout the day in particular.
An observation shared by Audrey Birba, a care assistant for three years, who previously worked from home. In this case, “there is always a specific time“devoted to aids, such as “30 minutes for the toilet” while some patients need much more. “Here you can take two hours if necessary“.
A report from the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs (Igas) also pointed out in July insufficient care for people with Alzheimer’s in nursing homes.
Petits Frères des Pauvres or La Maison des Sages are other examples of associations and companies having developed inclusive housing for these people, as an alternative to nursing homes or difficult maintenance at home, while more than a million patients suffer of Alzheimer’s in Europe.
On the walls of the corridor of this former hotel converted into a shared house, quotes, drawings, and even an “Alzheimer’s poem”: “Don’t ask me to remember, don’t try to make me understand, let me rest“, we can read there.
The house contains only one living room and one dining table, so that the nine residents who can be accommodated there live together, “to find the family bond“, underlines Djamel Souami, general director of CetFamille, the company which manages the house.
People with cognitive illnesses spend even more time in common areas, according to Samuel Ahovi, Head of House Openings at CeFamille.
With the deductions of the various aids (personalized autonomy allowance, social housing allowance) and the tax credit for individual employers – the roommates being the employers of the carers – this type of housing amounts, on average, to 2,200 euros remaining to be paid per month, according to Mr. Souami.
Marlène’s room has a balcony with a view of the forest, as in her previous accommodation. Her new town of residence still evokes childhood memories: her parents owned a mobile home in the Baerenthal campsite, where she went regularly.
Despite everything, Marlène’s cousin admits, in “moments of lucidity”, she would like to get out of the shared accommodation and return to her life at home. “She has memories, that’s normal. But it goes by quickly“.