A nursing home in Sweden has installed a fake bus stop in a hallway to ease the anxiety of its residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia, who often sit waiting for a bus that will never come.
In a bright corridor of the Tallhojden nursing home in Sodertalje, about 35 kilometers from Stockholm, there is a bench, a map of the city and a sign with the logo of the municipal transport company, the line number and timetables.
Caroline Wahlberg, head of the institution, sits at this makeshift bus stop with Edward, a resident in his 80s, whose piercing blue eyes seem far away.
“It’s very common, especially at a certain stage of the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and dementia, when they have this concern and want to go home,” he says. “Some arrive with their bags packed” while waiting at the bank, she added.
The bus stop was installed four years ago, and although it is not used daily, it has helped patients on several occasions.
“There was a lady who lived here and she would come every day, several times a day, and ask her family to come get her,” Wahlberg said. “We sat with her on the bench to wait. Then we started talking (…) and she calmed down and became happy. Then we went to eat or watch television”, he says.
The fake bus stops began being installed in 2008 in parks near nursing homes in Germany to offer patients a place where they could instinctively sit.
In this Swedish institution with 17 residents, the measure is part of the treatment of residents. “This has brought some changes here, it’s like therapy for them,” says Louise Bass, a nurse who has worked at the site for 13 years.
Demand for the bank increases at the end of the day, when patients feel more restless. “They recognize the sign, so sometimes they think the bus is coming. We sit here and talk (and) they forget that they wanted to get off. This helps a lot”, reports the nurse.
According to Rebecka Gabrielsson, administrator of several nursing homes in the region, the bus stop “revives memories”.
“They can talk about where they worked, where they traveled. It’s a tool that helps them with their symptoms,” he said.
However, although the measure was adopted to reduce the number of dementia patients trying to escape to their homes, an article published in 2019 by the Israel Journal of Health Policy Research analyzed that fake bus stops can also increase feelings of frustration and disappointment of residents.