Sometimes just a sign is enough.

1 minute read

As patients age, nursing homes risk that they will become disoriented and “escape” the nursing home. Often, they are trying to return to homes in which they lived previously, desperate that their children, partners, or even parents are worried and waiting for them.

When they catch the escapee in time, the patient is often extremely upset and an altercation ensues. If they don’t catch them in time, the patient often hops onto public transportation and is eventually discovered by police. […]

An employee at the Benrath Senior Center came up with an alternative solution: a fake bus stop placed right outside of the front doors of the nursing home.

The fake bus stop does two wonderful things:
(1) The first thing a potential escapee does when they decide to “go home” is find a bus stop. So, patients who take off usually get no further than the first bus stop that they see. ”Where did Mrs. Schmidt go?” “Oh, she’s at the bus stop.” In practice, it worked tremendously. This meant that many disoriented patients no longer needed to be kept in locked wards.
(2) The bus stop diffuses the sense of panic. If a delusional patient decided that she needed to go home immediately because her children were all alone and waiting for her, the attendant didn’t need to restrain her or talk her out of it, she simply said, “Oh, well… there’s the bus stop.” The patient would go sit and wait. Knowing that she was on her way home, she would relax and, given her diminished cognition, she would eventually forget why she was there. A little while later the attendant could go out and ask her if she wanted to come in for tea. And she would say, “Ok.”.

The Bus Stop by RadioLab (via Lisa Wade)

It’s an amazingly simple solution with an incredible result: the fake bus stop uses the natural behavior of those disoriented to obtain a win-win scenario.