Bertus Homminga and Gottfried Wiblishauser were connected through the Kameraad Foundation
Translated by Thomas Ansell
As reported in the Friesch Dagblad, 68 year-old former family doctor Homminga was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago. In order to keep up his general health, Homminga wanted to keep on cycling- and luckily the Kameraad Foundation (‘Stichting Kameraad‘) has paired him up with Wiblishauser (23), and International student from Germany.
Homminga and Wiblishauser, who is an exchange student, head out for a cycle in all weather- and always together. Cycling together is both more convivial for the two, and also safer for Homminga as he sometimes (thanks to his Alzheimer’s) drifts unnoticed into the middle of the road.
Whenever Wiblishauser comes for his cycle with Homminga, it means that Henriëtte ter Horst (who is married to Homminga) is given a few hours off from care-giving. “That’s great for me, because then I have a few hours to spend working on my thesis.” Ter Horst is an artist, and is currently following a course from the Kunstacademie Friesland. She does have time to work on her art when her husband is home, but the thesis is often left aside: she doesn’t have the time to concentrate on it when she also has to look out for Homminga.
Homminga himself doesn’t feel so affected by his Alzheimer’s: “it is actually going fine”. He feels quite fit, and understands almost everything around him. Ter Horst, who was previously a nurse, gives a fuller picture: “Previously, we discussed everything. I worked with my husband in the practice. But now, it’s not so helpful to always want to discuss.” She is also now more responsible for her husband’s daily health- so it is important that Homminga keeps to set meal times, because he sometimes doesn’t notice his own hunger. For the year before his diagnosis this meant that he lost a lot of weight.
Quality of life
In order to raise the quality of life and expand the social networks of those with Alzheimer’s disease, the Kameraad Foundation pairs sufferers with a mate. Together they do all manner of activities: including painting, drawing, biking; or gardening, thereby treating their ‘comrade’ to an afternoon of activity: and freeing up some time for care-givers. Co-ordinator Sander Teerstra, who is part of Stichting Kameraad, thinks that it is important that more home counselling services are provided for elderly people, now that older people live for longer at home and care-givers are often overloaded with their responsibilities. “Not only in terms of the medical field for injections and tablets, but also in terms of welfare on a more holistic level.”
In 2015, the Kameraad project was set up as ‘trial programme’ through the KwadrantGroep (a Leeuwarder care organisation), in collaboration with Stenden Hogeschool (now NHL Stenden). After the research part of the programme was complete, after 3 years, the programme was abruptly stopped for the 40 dementia-sufferers who had been participating. Three professors that were involved and two students then decied to se the organisation back on its feet.
For Wiblishauser, the programme is a part of his course in Social Work at NHL Stenden: which he is following for a period of one year in the Netherlands. Together, he and Homminga cycle for two or three hours around Wyns, Oen-tsjerk, and Tytsjer. The two chat about lots of subjects, but especially football- Homminga was the club doctor at SC Cambuur for 12 years.
Image via Stichting Kameraad