Dec 15, 2012

The Alzheimer's Bus STOP

When an Alzheimer's patient tells you they want to go home, or they want to move somewhere, I am telling you now, if they are capable of wandering they are going to go for it.

Alzheimer's Bus Stop | Alzheimer's Reading Room
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Sixty percent (60) of persons suffering from Alzheimer's disease wander.

A large fraction of these wanderers want to get home. Home, however, is an elusive target.

Home could be where they lived as a child, or a place they lived during their life that brings back fond memories. Or,  just back to their house.

Can an Alzheimer's Patient Wander and Die?

When a person living with dementia starts telling you they want to go home, or they want to move somewhere, I am telling you now, if they are capable of wandering they are going to go for it.

If they can't drive they will go for the bus. Let's face it, get on the bus and you can go wherever you want.

Sound crazy?

How about 78 year old Roger Mattoon who lived in Denver, Colorado. Roger walked down the street to the local bus. Took the bus to the Greyhound station.

They found him wandering around aimlessly in San Diego, California three days later.

Yes Roger suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Roger was discovered after he fell down, injured his head, and was rushed to the Hospital via ambulance.

Fortunately, he had his Veterans Affairs identification card in his pocket and had been reported as missing.

What about Dorothy?

For years Dorothy said over and over, let's move back to south Philadelphia. It didn't matter that Dorothy last lived in south Philly in the 1940s. Or, that she had lived in Delray Beach longer then she lived in south Philly.

There is no doubt that if Dotty knew how to take the local public transportation she would have been long gone one day. The good news, I would have been waiting for her at the bus station in Philadelphia if I had not found a way to get her off the bus sooner.


Persons living with dementia go missing all the time. Even from nursing homes and hospitals.

This use to drive me crazy.

However, over time I learned that Alzheimer's patients just go poof. They disappear sometimes like a ghost. It is amazing when you think about.


Now for the flash of genius. Bunkhouse Logic.

A staff member at a dementia nursing home made a simple observation -- when Alzheimer's patients escape, wander, they head directly for public transportation.

His bright idea?

Why night build a fake bus stop right outside the nursing home facility. Sounds crazy, huh?

Well it works. Patients wander out to the bus stop, get lulled by the wait, forget why they are there, and snap back to the present. More or less.

Now I am going to send you over to RadioLab where you can listen to this wonderful story. Don't get impatient. Take the time to listen and enjoy. You might need some Kleenex.

Listen - A Bus to Nowhere

Simple but excellent solution to a problem. Beats locking a person living with Alzheimer's in a room if you ask me.


Alzheimer's Wandering Why it Happens and What to do

Sobering Statistics about Alzheimer's Wandering

Tips to Prevent Wandering

My Mother Living with Alzheimer's Wandered, and I was the one that was "scared to death"

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Originally published in the Alzheimer's Reading Room March, 2003