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Fake bus stop calms Swedish dementia sufferers who want to go home

Published October 22, 2023 Updated October 22, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

STOCKHOLM — In a Swedish nursing home, residents wait for a bus that never comes.

Staff have installed a fake bus stop in a hallway to ease the minds of anxious dementia patients eager to leave.

A bench is pushed up against the wall under an authentic-looking bus stop sign for the municipal transport company, complete with a map of the town of Sodertalje.

An imaginary bus schedule is even posted on the opposite wall.

Caroline Wahlberg, who runs the Tallhojden nursing home, sat down with Edward, a resident in his 80s whose piercing blue eyes looked vaguely off into the distance.

“It has brought some change here, it’s like therapy,” said Louise Bass, a nurse who has worked at the home for 13 years.

The bench is most sought-after at the end of the day, when the patients are more likely to feel restless.

“Everybody has taken a bus. They recognise the sign, so sometimes they think the bus is coming,” Ms Bass said.

“We sit here and chat (and) they forget that they wanted to go out. It helps a lot.” 

The bus stop “brings back memories”, added Rebecka Gabrielsson, manager of several of the town’s nursing homes.  

“They can talk about where they worked, where they have travelled. It is a tool that helps them with their symptoms.”

But is it morally acceptable to lie to vulnerable patients?

An article published by the Israel Journal of Health Policy Research in 2019 examined the question of fake bus stops.

It showed that while the goal was to reduce the number of dementia patients trying to escape from nursing homes, the bus stops could also increase their sense of frustration and the feeling of being deceived. AFP

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