How a nursing home keeps dementia patients from wandering to another floor

The fake bus stop outside a nursing home is a well-known example of how health care facilities use choice architecture to keep Alzheimer’s patients from wandering off the property. Another example popped up in the NYT recently, this time about a home in Phoenix, Arizona, that uses carpeting to keep dementia patients from leaving their floor.

And Beatitudes installed a rectangle of black carpet in front of the dementia unit’s fourth-floor elevators because residents appear to interpret it as a cliff or hole, no longer darting into elevators and wandering away.

“They’ll walk right along the edge but don’t want to step in the black,” said Ms. Alonzo, who finds it less unsettling than methods some facilities use, bracelets that trigger alarms when residents exit. “People with dementia have visual-spatial problems. We’ve actually had some people so wary of it that when we have to get them on the elevator to take them somewhere, we put down a white towel or something to cover it up.”

When elevator doors open, Beatitudes staff members stand casually in front, distracting residents with “over-the-top” hellos, she said: “We look like Cheshire cats,” but “who’s going to want to get on the elevator when here’s this lovely smiling person greeting you? It gets through to the emotional brain.”

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  • debbie

    where is the research on this solution. would like to try it need prood

  • Warrington Nursing Homes

    Excellent blogspot.It was very informative.Keep sharing such good aarticles.

  • jess

    What about hospice patients ? My gram (grandmother) was in a nursing home in CT and I heard that at night time patients were constantly yelling. Daytme, she eats with demented patients and food all over her face. Even the adminstrator chasing after young girls..keep your grand daughters away!…and he is mean mean mean double mean. Hats off to Bickford Healthcare in CT for making it more pleasant for my gram..NOT

  • Judy

    In our long term care facility, on the dementia unit, we have wanderers going into other patients rooms. We have tried yellow material barriers, and mats on the floor that they should perceive as black holes, so they won’t enter. Nothing works!. We can’t put sliding gates in the door frames, as they may jam their fingers. Any ideas from other homes??

  • Peace and Love

    Like the black carpet ideas and while it may seem restrictive, in another way it is sharpening the person’s senses with ‘keep away’ thoughts. Found this page while looking for a solution to dementia father putting anything he has put in his pocket into the toilet, anything at all. Haven’t tried turning off the water valve, but those valves are not designed to be used with great frequency, I’d worry about wearing it out with horrendous consequences. Turns out, father had this same problem in his last apartment, continually stopping up the toilet. There is a device that goes on the back of the toilet tank that permits hand washing with the tank fill water. I thought of that $150 device that might distract him. Any advice would be great. Worst problem I have encountered. He unplugs everything electrical, but I’ve printed out giant stop signs and that’s working so far. I have a tip to share….I bought a Porch Lite that is meant to be mounted. I put it in the floor as a hands-free light, but what’s more, outside his bedroom door –permits me to know when he sits up in bed, and then goes to the bathroom, it comes back on to Guide his way, but ‘tells’me he has gotten on the right path back, ‘Amazon -it’ very clever motion detecting device….should be in every home with an elder.