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In Germany: A Fake Solution To A Real Problem

Updated on June 13, 2008

I Already Forgot...

A friend once told me, "If you're going to tell jokes about anyone, make fun of old people, because we'll also be old one day." I remembered these words when an online article made me laugh out loud. The headline reads:

"Fake bus stop keeps Alzheimer's patients from wandering off".

Intrigued, I read on. Apparently, German nursing homes rely heavily on police to "retrieve" Alzheimer's patients who tend to run away. Usually these old folks want to return to their often non-existent homes and families. Finally the Benrath Senior Centre in Düsseldorf decided to try an idea: put a "phantom" bus stop outside the center where patients can patiently wait for the bus that will "take them home".

According to British news site Telegraph, the Centre joined efforts with a local care association called Old Lions to procure an exact replica of a standard bus stop. They had it installed outside the center and so far, the plan has been successful.

"It sounds funny but it helps," said Franz-Josef Goebel, chairman of the Old Lions. "Our members are 84 years old on average. Their short-term memory hardly works, 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 runaway patients now wait at the bus stop, but then quickly forget why they were there in the first place. Benrath staff members will approach them, tell them that the bus is coming later, and invite them in for coffee. Another five minutes later and they have completely forgotten that they wanted to leave at all. This tactic has worked so well that it has been adopted by several other homes in Germany.

I understand that dealing with Alzheimer's can be a very difficult experience for families. I hope I have not offended anyone by thinking that this piece of news is funny. I laugh because of the innocence of the story, the comic purity of the fact that this happened due to nobody's fault. One day I may have Alzheimer's myself and have others be amused by my forgetful antics. On that day, I hope I will still remember Dory, the forgetful fish from the movie, "Finding Nemo," and sing to myself, "Just keep swimming...just keep swimming..."


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    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 9 years ago from America

      Very cute story and a very good idea.