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An Unusual Way Of Stopping Alzheimer's Patients From Wandering Off

Nursing homes in Germany are using an unusual way to stop Alzheimer's patients from wandering away: false bus stops.

Fake bus stops

It is a well known fact that Alzheimer's in nursing homes often leave to try and find their way home. The  Benrath Senior Centre in Düsseldorf, has come up with an unusual way of stopping patients from wandering too far away – bus stops. The catch is that no buses ever stop at the bus stops because they are fake.

The centre came across the idea false bus stops because many of their patients try to return to non-existent homes. Up until now, if a patient goes missing, the centre has to rely on the police to find the confused patients or rely on tracking devices.

Poor short term memory for dementia patients

Then the Benrath teamed up with a local care association and came upon the bus stop idea. The theory is that  the short-term memory of many dementia patients hardly works, but the long-term memory is still active. They remember the characteristic green and yellow bus sign that are no longer in use. If the green and white bus stops are placed outside the home, then the patient recognises the sign and waits for a non-existent bus to take them home.

Waiting for a bus that never comes

Franz-Josef Goebel, the chairman of the "Old Lions" association says that the patients patients recognise the colours of the bus stop and now outside the home for a bus to take them to their old homes. However, they quickly forget why they are waiting.

Staff can then approach the patients and tell them that the bus is delayed and invite them in for refreshments while they wait.  Richard Neureither, Benrath's director says that five minutes later they have completely forgotten they wanted to leave.

The idea has proved a great success and has been adopted by other nursing homes through-out Germany.

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