Wayward Alzheimer's patients foiled by fake bus stop
A German nursing home has come up with a novel idea to stop Alzheimer's patients from wandering off: a phantom bus stop.
The bus stop, in front of the Benrath Senior Centre in the western city of Düsseldorf, is an exact replica of a standard stop, with one small difference: buses never stop there.
The idea emerged after the centre was forced to rely on police to retrieve patients who wanted to return to their homes and families but had forgotten that in many cases neither existed any longer.
"If we can’t find them then we have to alert the police,” said Benrath's director Richard Neureither. “It can be particularly dangerous if this happens in winter and they spend the night out in the cold.”
Without powers to detain patients, he said, Benrath had been forced to look for other solutions.
“We cannot and must not run after people and lock them up,” said Mr Neureither.
Instead, Benrath home teamed up with local care association called the 'Old Lions'. They went to the Rheinbahn transport network which was happy to provide the bus stop to nowhere.
“It sounds funny,” said Old Lions Chairman Franz-Josef Goebel, “but it helps. Our members are 84 years-old on average. Their short-term memory hardly works at all, but the long-term memory is still active. They know the green and yellow bus sign and remember that waiting there means they will go home.” The result is that errant patients now wait for their trip home at the bus stop, before quickly forgetting why they were there in the first place.
“We will approach them and say that the bus is coming later today and invite them in to the home for a coffee,” said Mr Neureither. “Five minutes later they have completely forgotten they wanted to leave.” The idea has proved so successful that it has now been adopted by several other homes across Germany.
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