The Opportunity is in the Perspective

It is easy to get stuck in a rut, and to continue to do things a certain way because they have always been done that way. This applies to everything: from the way we drink our coffee, to the steps we take in planning a new development.  In those unexpected moments of clarity, when we can see things from a fresh perspective, there is the possibility of true progress and innovation.

The Rut: Alzheimer’s patients often become disoriented.  They slip into the past and become convinced that they need to get home, or find their family.  They experience a growing sense of urgency or loneliness and they feel an overwhelming need to escape.  So they do, wandering alone and putting themselves in danger.  Up until recently the solution to this has been to lock patients up, for their own good.

Ask Why: This didn’t feel right to one of the board members of the Benrath Senior Center, located in Dusseldorf, Germany, and two years ago he devised a unique approach to dealing with this problem.  He proposed building a fake bus stop right in front of the home, to which busses never came.  The idea was that the bus stop would “catch” patients.

How it works: To patients, a bus stop represents a path to freedom, and it is often the first place they go in their attempt to return to where they think they need to be.  They sit, waiting for the bus, in the sunshine and the fresh air and eventually, they forget why they are there. A staff person comes out to join them and after awhile, suggests they go inside for a cup of tea and the patient willingly returns to the center.

Instead of struggling against the illness, the Benrath Senior Center allows patients to live out their old memories, uses the bus stop to keep them safe, and gently brings them back to the present.  It’s not about the bus stop – it’s about a new way of interacting with patients and converting problems into opportunities.

What is your rut?

3 Comments

  1. Thank you, Bailey. I’m so happy to know about this approach to memory care and how it
    does translate into everyone’s life no matter our age or circumstances.

    I’m going to go to work on my rut.

  2. This is such a beautiful and humane solution; effective, simple, and affordable. Very touching.

  3. I recently watched a documentary on a new theory of working with people suffering from this disease. Rather than trying to pull them into the present when they are having a bad day, one enters the patient’s conversation on the level of time they are in, by asking questions pertinent to that time. The patient seems to respond quite rationally, thus keeping the “two-way street” open and the patient engaged and their mind active. The human touch also seemed to work wonders for those that seemed lost to any verbal communication. When one held or stroked their hand and talked softly for long periods, the patient eventually made eye contact and spoke a few words. It was incredibly beautiful.

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