Working under the slogan, “The forgetful are not to be forgotten,” the two former professional carers setting up the shop in Freiburg already have a successful operation in Switzerland, which attracts people from across Europe.
Helmut Mazander and Beat Wyss – both gerontologists, experts in the social, physiological and biological aspects of aging – aim to break down the taboos surrounding dementia and say the need for sensible handling of the topic is urgent.
“I have seen people suffering alone and ashamed for years,” Mazander told The Local. “Carers do not know where to turn. We want to help improve the quality of life for those affected by this often-ignored disease”.
For sufferers and their relatives, dementia can be a catastrophe – and as the population ages it is set to become a more common one.
The 2011 Dementia report by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development showed that around 1.3 million people live with the condition in Germany. By the year 2030, this figure is expected to reach two million and 2.6 million by 2050.
Mazander and Wyss opened their first shop, called simply Demenzladen (dementia shop) nine months ago in Basel after becoming increasingly frustrated seeing the lack of support for dementia patients and their families in Switzerland.
But they were not only approached by desperate Swiss people – their shop attracted people from across Europe, hungry for expertise as well as the personal touch offered in Demenzladen. As Wyss said, “We do not compare one patient with another."
She told of an English man who arrived at the shop asking for help for his elderly father who could no longer bend down and was having difficulties getting dressed, adding stress and distress to the start of the day.
He came to the shop searching for help and left with a handy chair-like device which holds clothes open, enabling a person to step into them – as well as a detailed explanation of how to use it.
The shop offers a practical approach to life with dementia and prides itself on offering the most up-to-date technology, such as discrete monitor that informs the carer if a patient has urinated in the bed.
It is technology like this that they believe will make the lives of sufferers more dignified and comfortable.
“As well as safety equipment we sell many books on dementia, and we even arrange holidays to dementia-suitable locations,” said Mazander. “This offers a break for both sufferers and carers and relieves somewhat the stress of organising it themselves”.
Personal consultations are followed up on the phone – conversations can be held in English and Spanish as well as German.
The shop also offers workshops for carers, ranging from intensive homecare courses to practical advice on approaching incontinence. One-on-on advice sessions are also available, giving the shop a personal edge often lacking in busy hospital. They also boast a team of trained carers, who are available for home visits.
Independent from the state, Mazander and Wyss enjoy the freedom they have to be flexible innovative in their approach. “There are no dos and don’ts. We can simply do things the way we feel best, drawing from the experience we have,” said Mazander.
The plan is for the German shop to open before next summer.