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?