How does a German senior center stop alzheimer's patients from wandering off?

It builds a phony bus stop outside its entrance.

The nursing home was continuously relying on police to find wayward patients who left the site in search of old homes and families (that sometimes did not exist).

“It sounds funny,” said Old Lions Chairman Franz-Josef Goebel, “but (the fake bus stop) 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.

Nursing home staff members then approach them and invite them inside for coffee.

Hat tip: Ana Nelson


  • Amit Sodha

    LOL Ingenious! :-)

  • Kellen

    That’s brilliant! And compassionate.

  • ryn

    haha, amazing. great idea!

  • Anonymous

    that’s simply amazing. the staff that came up with the idea needs a salary increase at the least. :)

  • No Hablo Ingles

    Drunkenly half-reading “The Obliterator” by Janus Einhardt made me read this article. I think that this is utterly absurd and should never have been done. The anxiety and stress and mental damage that waiting for a bus that never comes must inflict upon the patients irreparable havoc. You are all sinful, sinful people, and will rot in Estonia for the rest of the life of the universe.

    • Jan Gephardt

      Please remember these are Alzheimer’s patients. Have you ever interacted with someone suffering from this disease?

    • Chris

      Drunkenly reading, eh? You must have been too drunk to read the part where the staff comes out shortly after the patient leaves and brings them a nice warm cup of coffee and brings them back inside. You should probably drink and drive too. You also must be too drunk to research Alzheimer’s.

    • Jonathan

      If they hadn’t built the fake bus stop, the one who are hurt the most are the patients. By randomly wandering off, they’re exposed to dangerous situations which they may not be able to respond to, so at least they’re being kept in a safe environment.

    • Anonymous

      why estonia?i wouldnt mind it at all,beautiful women and tangfastic beer,shur what else could you want?

    • Jack

      You can’t be serious dude. Get a life.

    • Anonymous

      These people will become more vulnerable and rightened if they wonder off only to be even more confused my the ever changing surroundings

    • Nate

      awesome. this has inspired me to put completely retarded, against the majority, comments on articles. Just to get some fire and intense conversations!


    • Guy

      You have all been trolled…welcome to the Internet.

  • spaceface

    Poor people.. it’s like being tricked back into an infinite waiting room, knowing u want something else in the back of your mind but people of higher consciousness thinking they know what is best for u..

    I’d rather kill myself than let society “take care” of me when I’m old and confused

    • MC


      Would you rather they wander off aimless and lost without any one to make sure they’re ok?

    • Chris

      Who said they were waiting there for infinity? I don’t remember reading that part of the story. Please kill yourself now and save us your bitching.

  • Jenn

    I think this is wonderful. People with memory loss like this are always being told no – no, mom, he passed away six years ago, no, we don’t own that house any more. This is compassionate and allows them their dignity. AND keeps them safe!

    • Davy

      You said it, Jenn.

  • SunShineShines

    I think that is awesome. It is better than being fussed at – possibly saying you have to come back in. They don’t always realize what is happening to them. And I think the nurses are being thoughtful.

  • minibraun

    The idea is from an short animated movie called “Harvie Krumpet”.

    They won the oscar for best short in 2004. Never thought anyone would every use the idea nor that it would work.

  • kevin

    does anyone remember the tv show…. the prisoner…? thats what i thought about when i read this… but a much more humane version. no big white balloon to collect the inhabitants of the “island” who escaped

    that being said…. i think its genius. the agitation felt by those wanting to go home evaporates quickly in alzheimers land… and the people who are charged with caring for them, offer them a cup of coffee and everything is good….

    once, when i was much younger and had just been married, my new wife was in the bathroom and an old man in a backless hospital gown came in my back door and walked through the kitchen into my living room where i was sitting and he was carrying a tennis racket looking sweaty and confused and he said… “where is the bathroom?”…”where is the bathroom?”…… i simply said….. “my wife is in there now, it will be a minute”. at that, he pointed his tennis racket toward the front door and went to it, opened it, and walked out onto the front porch and down to the sidewalk and walked away. later we found that he had left the hospital two blocks away, had been found and was ok. i dont think the fake bus stop would have fixed this one…. but… i can see that there are those that it WOULD help. as well as keeping the people charged for caring for them from going through the fear and families from suffering the nightmare of having people they love disappear.

    another time, i was working at the warner brothers studio store at the florida mall in orlando… and there was a woman in a hospital gown, obviously in a daze… following a family around…. the mother came up to me and asked if could please call mall security, because this woman got on the bus with them at their hotel… and sat behind them on the bus. she got off when they did and was following them around the mall..

    turns out, she too… was suffering from alzheimers and had gotten out of the retirement home and thought they were her family.

    the bus stop WOULD have kept this woman from having to experience this and the british toursit family wouldnt have had to go through it either.

  • b w

    In high school I worked at a nursing home where an elderly person wandered off during the winter months. He was found a few miles away, dead and stuck in between fence beams. No one that I talked to knew exactly he left, but I can imagine that he would have went towards a fake bus stop. In the off chance that this trick does cause long term damage, it could be more beneficial to have it than not.

    Most of the patients who woke up every morning and “waited for the bus” were delusional 24/7. Without any medical evidence suggesting otherwise – I doubt that most of these patients have a chance of suffering from long term effects from a fake bus stop.

  • Pacifus

    Yeah…This is brilliant. I’ve worked on an Alzheimer’s unit; this is a very calm and non-invasive way of making sure that residents are safe. This is a much better than doors that won’t open, alarms, sirens, and wheel chairs that won’t move. It almost makes me mist up.

  • T

    I think the nursing staff needs a major award for this one. As someone with experience, I took care of my mother for 8 yrs after she was diagnosed, I can only say I wish I had been so intelligent and caring to come up with such a solution. Anyone who thinks that the “bus stop” is a bad idea has never been there!

  • blessedb

    We’ve got to keep our old, crazy people confined and protected. They are an invaluable resource of humor, poop stories, and nursing home jobs. Not only is this idea beautiful and great, I think that nursing homes should also think about training and using herding dogs to keep the old folks from wandering off. Like train a collie who sits in the yard around the old people’s home and it can guide those cranky and cantankerous curmudgeons back into the relative safety of the facility.

    Plus they say that people with pets live longer healthier lives, so the dogs will probably help those geezers.

    • Jan Gephardt

      Border collies would like this, actually.

  • robb

    brilliant idea. this is one of the ways to treat alzheimers’ patients.

    i remember i’ve seen some other ways somewhere.

  • Anonymous

    That’s story is beautiful…

  • Nink

    Brilliant idea… but the story also made me feel really sad. Poor people, who try just to “go home”. Alzheimer or not, the fact that they try to go look for a bus home points out to how strange the care center must be for them. Plus, I really like what blessedb said. Dogs are great therapists for Alzheimer patients and they could also become their guides!

  • Chris Ronk

    That is so sad. What a friendly to help these people who are living in an abstract reality.

    I wish more nursing homes were so thoughtful.

  • Andrew

    I agree with Jen!

  • http://Yahoo!InternetExplorer Jean Weingartner

    This guy Sustein is a wac job along with the other Czars Obama has hanging around him.BIRDS OF A FEATHER.THIS IS DANGEROUSE PEOPLE.

  • susan

    Bus stops work for folk who are used to a city or area with bus stops. Unfortunately this is not likely to work in suburban or more rural areas.

    Realize that Alzheimer units in NH are some of the first to use proximity alarms – that alert when a resident goes out the door. I think there are some with GPS too.

  • susan

    PS. Herding dogs are problematic for code reasons, but some are allowed to have a cat (remember Oscar?) or have periodic visits by other animals.

  • SusieD

    Interesting article. Hadn’t heard about this bus stop idea. Brilliant.

    I did hear about some other nursing homes designed for those with Alzheimer’s to “wander”. Saw it in a documentary called “I Remember Better When I Paint”. We saw at a screening last month at Boston University

    Here is the trailer to the film:

  • gigi

    “senior center” jesus christ, ANOTHER euphemism for old-people-related-stuff

    what, “retirement home” became offensive already?