There's a news article that's been making the rounds about a German Nursing home that has found a unique way to keep their most forgetful residents from trying to leave*. I want to share it here because too often it seems we gravitate towards punitive or restrictive measures in order to stop unwanted behaviors - especially in people with conditions like Alzheimers - and this is nothing of the sort.
Instead...the nursing home has found a way to use the natural behaviors and reactions of their residents to keep them from "escaping".
This seems counterproductive to their goal of keeping their residents from wandering - except for the fact that the bus stop... isn't! It looks exactly like one, but no buses ever come.
So, when a resident decides to leave, they head out the door and wait for a bus. Then, someone from the Senior Center waits a couple minutes before heading out to apologize to the resident that the bus is running late - and to invite them in for a cup of coffee until the next bus comes. The resident, who has likely already forgotten why they were there in the first place, happily comes back into the Senior Centre of their own free will.
There are no alarms as a resident passes a doorway, no Senior Center staff chasing after a resident, no calls to the police and frantic searches, and no defient residents struggling on the way in.
It's a beautifully-simple solution. And better yet, it doesn't leave the residents feeling like they're in a prison - like locked doors and ankle bracelets do. Instead, when a nice person comes out to the bus stop and invites them in for a cup of coffee, the resident feels taken care of, and happy to come inside.
That's really important, because there are studies that show that while Alzheimer's patients don't always remember much from moment-to-moment, they do continue to feel the same emotions that they were feeling before.
I wish more organizations would take human behavior into account to come up with fresh solutions that make life less stressful for vulnerable adults (and the people who care for them)!
*A frequent problem with Alzheimer's patients - who decide they'd much rather be someplace they remember from their youth, instead of the Senior Center. It's especially dangerous when those places no longer exist, or when the Alzheimer's patient forgets where they are going en route.