‘Caring for people with dementia is work I put my heart into’

Henna Ignacia Winklaar from Bonaire

Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau since 17 June 2021

Henna Winklaar

‘Even as a girl of 12, I used to visit older people in my neighbourhood. I would go shopping for them or sweep out their house. At the time we still used oil lamps in Bonaire, and I’d fetch kerosene for older neighbours. Sometimes they’d give me some brown sugar as a treat.’

Showing people there’s a different way

‘I’ve worked in elderly care for 43 years. I started as a caregiver and later became a geriatric nurse. I was eventually hired to be head of care at the Kas di Kuido nursing home. After 10 years I became the case manager for dementia patients at Fundashon Mariadal. My job doesn’t end at five o’clock. It often extends well into the evening. But caring for people with dementia and their families is work I put my heart into.’

‘When my own mother got dementia, I cared for her at home as long as I could. I wanted to set a good example, to show people there’s a different way of doing things. It’s important for people with dementia to live in familiar surroundings for as long as possible, with caring people around them. I feel such satisfaction to see an elderly person with dementia who is at ease. And family members who know extra support is available.’

‘At Fundashon Alzheimer Bonaire, a foundation we set up in 2011, we offer unpaid carers advice and support. We’re there to give the family members of people with dementia a time-out every now and then, so they don’t get overworked.’

My greatest wish for older people

‘There have been a lot of improvements to elderly care in Bonaire. One example of this is Kas di Karko, which we established with the Care and Well-Being Group. It is a day-care centre for older people with dementia. But there’s a lot more we could do. I’m working to set up an institution for geriatric patients that provides both physical and psychological care. And I’m hoping we’ll soon also have small-scale residential options for people with dementia. I’m also looking to create a “care garden”, a place where people with dementia can go in small groups to do gardening or other activities in the fresh air.’

‘We organise lots of different activities for the residents of Kas di Kuido. They take part in the carnival parade, and we take them to the theatre or the Bonaire Sailing Regatta. Recently, Kas di Karko even crowned a patient Reina di Tumba, queen of the Tumba Festival!’

‘When the governor of Bonaire called me to say I’d been appointed Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau, my first thought was: “Me?”. I never expected it. At the ceremony I cried. I was really moved. My greatest wish is for older people in Bonaire to have a chance to take part fully in society. I’ll continue to do whatever I can to make this happen.’