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The Bus Stop

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 07:15 PM

There’s a common problem faced by Alzheimer's and Dementia patients all over the world: lost in their memories, they sometimes get disoriented, and wander off. In this podcast, Lulu Miller talks to a nursing home in Düsseldorf, Germany that came up with a novel solution.

When an Alzheimer's or Dementia patient wanders, they can end up too far from home, frightened, or hurt. So what are you supposed to do if your loved one--a parent, a grandparent--begins to wander in this way? Often times the only solution is to lock them up. Which just feels cruel. But what else are you supposed to do if you want to keep them safe?

Well, the Benrath Senior Center, came up with a new idea. An idea so simple you almost think it couldn't work. Producer Lulu Miller talks to Richard Neureither and Regine Hauch about what they've done in Düsseldorf.


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Comments [65]

Kate Carll from Philadelphia, PA USA

Sounds like a good example (though I don't think intended) of a newer way of interacting with people with dementia - Based on the basic idea of Improvisational Theater "Yes... And" caregivers find ways to work WITH people's alternate realities.
and the BEST,

Mar. 19 2018 04:43 PM
John from NYC

Incredibly cruel. A bus stop that goes nowhere? Maybe the desire to escape comes from the lack of stimulation! A facility like Dementia Village is a far more humane solution -

Feb. 13 2016 01:14 PM
Virginia N. Plath from United States

This was really quite a funny solution. My grandmother has dementia and has episodes like the ones described often. Maybe we should build a bus stop outside of her house. I'm glad that they let the patients live in that false reality for a little while. It can be sad to bring them back to the moment.

Jan. 26 2015 04:19 PM
Elinor L Rousseau

This is such a creative way to kindly treat elderly patients with Alzheimer s and dementia. We see so often abuse and neglect in retirement homes, so building a bus stop to allows their minds to come back to reality rather than being forced back. Fostering a calming environment allows for the elderly to enjoy their stay and feel calmer during their times of forgetfulness and panic. Its good to hear a positive story coming from a retirement home every now and then.

Nov. 10 2014 08:35 PM
Catniss S. Vonnegut from Oviedo

I was not aware that people with Alzheimer's and Dementia wandered and were able to occasionally able to escape from nursing homes. I think it is a slightly scary thought that people can just wander off. I think that building a bus stop outside the home is an unconventional solution but I think it is a solution that is better to the alternative of just locking up people who wander. The bus stop is a good idea because it is a simple yet effective method of keeping those who wander save and under control.

Nov. 03 2014 09:08 PM
Agatha Silverstein

I find it most interesting that all the people who sit on the bench react the same way after some time. They all seem to forget why they were waiting at the bus stop in the first place, as the plan intended. I think this is an exceptionally clever plan to appease people affected by Alzheimer's and dementia. Although there is trickery involved, the bus stop is even doing the patients a favor by allowing them to entertain their memories, rather than confusing them even more by explaining the reality of their situations. The only discrepancy I see with the bus stop is that some patients may not go to the bus stop and can still get lost.Other than that, I find this plan to be greatly creative.

Oct. 27 2014 10:48 PM
Lorelei C. Whitman

The idea of having a bus stop where one could sit for hours without seeing a bus pass shocked me.My first thought was that this action was deceitful and immoral. But as the idea settled, I understood that this idea benefited the family, patients, and the facility. Instead of having panic-stricken, upset patients locked away in a building, the bus stop served as a place to go that would give the elderly peace of mind and would calm their worried souls. Having a loved one suffering from Dementia, there are moments of confusion and anger from being told different than what you remember. This innovation is magnificent because it keeps loved ones safe,puts less stress on the staff, and gives patients peace of mind.

Oct. 27 2014 06:52 PM
Bruce L from Fitchburg, Mass., USA

For those who want to read the news story link but don't read German, there's a very nice online translator at

As with most such efforts, the translation falls short at times, but it does give you an idea of what the story says.

The site only translates 1000 characters at a time. You can open two or three instances of the page and paste a segment of the story into each. You'll have to wait a minute or two for the translation to show up, but be patient. If you've opened several copies of the page you'll only have to wait for the first segment to be translated, as the others will have been translated by the time you get to them (unless you're quite the speed reader).

Apr. 27 2014 04:30 PM
Dana from San Diego County

I recognize the circumstances all too well from my mother's experiences. When she "knew" she was due to teach a class or play the organ for a funeral or go to a meeting, it was so urgent that she could not be dissuaded. We were able to let her stay at home for quite awhile with child gates on the porch exit and stairs, because she didn't know to open them. We finally understood that it was kinder to not try to "set her straight" each time she said "Have you talked to your Dad lately?" when he had been gone for 7 years. We asked her to tell us exactly where to drive her for the class or funeral, but she couldn't remember. Eventually we could distract her and she would forget. I saw a bus stop in a dementia home in Castro Valley, CA. My mother is now in a wonderful Alzheimers/dementia carehome where everyone is trained to listen respectfully, to honor what the person is saying, and to let go of the concerns of time travel and time shifting. I loved the program.

Apr. 07 2014 11:06 AM
Nancy Nix

How can I get the article on the nursing home in English? The link is in German. Thx.

Apr. 05 2014 02:08 PM
Katie from Illinois

I love this story so much. It is one of the few that I "talk back" to every time I listen to it. When Jad asks "isn't this a little cruel?" I always say "NO!" outloud. It looks pretty weird if I'm wearing headphones... :)

Alzheimers is something I expect to help my own mother through, just as she helped her mother. When I was younger it used to make me very depressed, but after a few years, it became a more manageable fact of life for me. The first time I heard this story, at the first mention of a bus stop with no bus ever coming I laughed out loud with sheer joy. It was a eureka moment. I think everyone with a relative that suffers from Alzheimers or Dimensia can relate.

A disease that is as devastating as this one must be approached with love AND a sense of humor. My freshman year of high school was when we moved my grandma into a nursing home. She had good care but had to stay on a locked floor. It felt so unnatural to have to get the key code from the receptionist whenever we came to visit. Grandma would ask us to stay a few minutes longer until "father" came downstairs. She was always referring to her husband, who had died almost ten years ago. We'd tell her that we had to go, but we would talk to Grandpa next time we came.

After a while, my grandma couldn't recognize my mom anymore. She would call her only daughter by her brother in law's name. And my mom wouldn't correct her. When she told friends and neighbors this, they would give her a funny look and say "Why? Why wouldn't you try to help her remember?"

The first truth is exactly how this piece describes it. How terrible would it be to have to remind your mother who you are, only to have her feel embarrassed for forgetting, or worse, to insist you are lying? The second truth is just as true, but its the only one my mom ever responded with.

Stranger: Why wouldn't you explain to your mother who you really are?
Mom: She gets more visitors that way!

Thank you so much for your program, and this one in particular.

Feb. 14 2013 10:57 PM
Marc from Los Angeles

Brought tears to my eyes, and a lump in my throat, and a curious smile to my lips. The very definition of "Heart warming". Thank you for a brilliant piece of work. All old age homes should take heed; especially the one i'll be in, in 25 years (or less).

Jan. 30 2013 12:36 PM
S Mosely from Los Angeles

This story is one of the things I remember as a "best" in 2012. I find it so perfect. It's hard to think of this happening in North America though. I imagine the resistance or even hostility meeting an idea brought in from a person in the community, and that he'd be met with a brisk quoting of hospital protocol and city ordinance. Is that why the tags above include gut wrenching? Don't tag this gut wrenching, just an effective, human way to solve problems.

Dec. 27 2012 02:18 AM

A subject that touches many of us. I have been sharing this story since I first heard it last spring. Finally downloaded it! now I am going to send it so they can hear the real version which is much better than mine.

May. 17 2012 11:56 AM
Marla from Long Beach, CA

Masterful storytelling and a solution that one can imagine expanding into other venues with wondrous results.

Jan. 22 2012 11:20 PM

Please create a PayPal contribution link in your support page. I will donate.

Sep. 13 2011 12:47 AM
ethan from Denver, Co.

An uplifting story with a problem motivating a creative solution. The welcome level of creativity "escaped" the customary logic of budgeting security improvements. Truly elegant!

Applause for the comment that lying" devoid of selfish benefit, may perhaps be more like caring consideration . . . no different than the comfort offered a distressed child.

May. 29 2011 08:57 PM
Renee Tambor from New York

My first time listening to Radiolab. A real find! The segment brought up memories of my grandmother with Alzheimers', the nursing home care she got, and to the terrible plight of Alzheimers' patients. Bravo for this sensitive and caring Senior Center in Germany. Of paramount importance is funding for research to eradicate this terrible disease.

Apr. 07 2011 04:30 PM
Amanda from North Carolina

This was really beautiful and thoughtful. I love the fact that they will allow people to do the things that they wanted to's cruel to imprison anyone especially someone so innocent.

Mar. 31 2011 03:01 PM
Sonni Giudicessi from Des Moines, IA

Beautiful.. Comfort in knowing there is a way home.

Sep. 19 2010 03:21 PM
Shaunna from Ohio

I worked on a locked wing of a nursing home many years ago. I had several experiences which were utterly amazing to me.In one example three residents would sit outside in the hallway next to each other every day after dinner.They would all speak,but not to each other. I was also in choir at the time where I had been working on old jazz songs,from the 30's and40's. I started to sing "Ain't Misbehaving".These ladies joined right in.We sang the entire song.Together,present in that moment,with lyrics and melody. I also had a gentleman ,who each night refused to go to bed unless he had his Scotch.As alcohol was not allowed in the facility. I filled a dixie cup with water and gave it to him,"Here's your Scotch,Sir." He sipped it slowly then went to bed, with no problems. I,however,was reprimanded for having told him that the water was Scotch...I really felt he was relieved when I had him it was the fulfillment of his routine.Something he missed from his life.

Sep. 13 2010 12:45 PM
Brandon from Kentucky

Awaiting a tangible bus is itself a journey of the mind.

This story moved me.

This form of therapy would benefit others. I believe such a bus stop would be rejuvenating for me on a busy day, to enjoy a shared story with a stranger on the bus stop bench. The bus stop is a way of going forward with your planed schedule, while being forced to stop and be retrospective. The bus stop is perhaps a perfect transition.

The film Forest Gump is framed by such a bus stop, where the bus is not used, indeed waved off, to make room for the continuation of the character narrative.

Bird chirping and the use of silence were especially useful in this podcast.

I can only hope that when I am aged, and if suffering from dementia, that I will be as well cared for, with kindness and patience, and with a bus stop outside my door.

Thank you.

Sep. 06 2010 02:37 PM

Reminds me when my mother was able to exit unknown form her care facility. After several hours of panic searching around outside we began searching all the rooms in her care facility only to find her sound asleep in an adjacent ber in one of the other male guest's bedroom. It was a funny happy ending

Aug. 10 2010 01:22 PM


Aug. 09 2010 08:23 PM

I cried. This does not happen easily.

Jul. 22 2010 08:01 AM

Wonderful story about a wonderful idea. I wonder, though, how we might apply this to dementia care residents in a rural setting? I work on a Special Care Unit in a small town in Idaho, and our residents tend to be retired farm folk from even smaller towns. A bus stop means nothing to them. They've always traveled by truck or car. I wonder how we might given them this same sense of possibility and movement, which is why they wander. Thoughts welcome!

Jun. 20 2010 12:19 AM
Ward Christensen

General comment: I'm someone who doesn't like Wired magazine - a little too "modern"? for me. Almost can't tell what's an ad and what's an article.

Radiolab is SO unlike any other talk show, spoken segments all chopped and interleaved, and etc, you'd THINK I might dislike it.

But I LOVE the format, the "production" adds SO much to the already superb topics, guests, hosts, etc etc.

SO along comes bus stop. I'm listening to the podcast, and you got to the person sitting waiting for the bus.

THEN you "muted" - Silence. After about 4 seconds I "mildly" thought "OK, I got it", but when you went on - at about 8 seconds, I broke out into this huge grin, -- holy cow, what a beautiful use of silence for its conveying a message.

Keep up the excellent work!

And yes, of COURSE I "contribute" $$.

Wish everyone did!

May. 25 2010 12:08 AM

I will miss Lulu!

May. 14 2010 10:52 PM

So many wonderful things about this story: the solution didn't come from "expert", but from a member of the community; the experts (i.e., director)was open to suggestions and tried the idea; and the staff became able to accept the worries of the patients on their own terms, letting them bake at two in the morning, or catch a non-existent bus, or do whatever they urgently had to do. No drugs, no restraints. Wonderful

May. 08 2010 09:34 PM
avid listener

As usual this is another RadioLab gem. I would like to contribute but my desire is similar to so many others who wish to remain anonomous. I suggest setting up a text-to-donate number. One could text RADIOLAB to some number and $10 would be billed to the phone account.

Apr. 19 2010 01:54 AM

Just had to add my praise for this segment. What a touching story and wonderful solution to a tricky situation. I have so much love and respect for the people who work in those types of facilities, bless them.

Apr. 14 2010 02:26 PM

it is this type of simple ingenuity that the healthcare reformers should heed. GUYS, i think you have a new category here.

Apr. 08 2010 01:32 PM

I've been grappling with the appalling circumstances my mother-in-law endures, afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and confined to what we call care here in America. I have thought I would rather end myself than suffer such an end. This story offers some hope of a less desperate way of coping with dementia. I can only hope that if I am ever so afflicted that I have the blessing of such thoughtful and caring people as those caregivers in Germany. If that were so, I would not fear the decline so.

Apr. 07 2010 02:45 AM

This was really such a beautiful story. My mother who had dementia found her way to a bus stop one day which was when we needed to change her level of care. The bus stop in this story provides a place to relax, regroup, and soothe one's mind. I was touched how the bus stop has helped the staff respond to other patients in increasingly compassionate ways. I'm a new listener and already a devoted fan.

Apr. 02 2010 03:50 PM
Sam S

This is great. Thank you for this great post. I hope this standard of care can be implemented elsewhere.

Apr. 02 2010 01:28 AM

I think we all need a bus stop of our own...a place to gather your thoughts and become centered...

Apr. 01 2010 02:37 PM

Wonderful always, well told and produced by Radio Lab. The people involved have developed a simple solution, one where the problem is actually the curx of the solution. One that is ultimately kind-hearted, and preserves the dignity of their patients.

Apr. 01 2010 12:12 PM
J. Rice

This was wonderful (all radio lab is but this one in particular). I'd be the bus stop idea is used more than we realize in other aspects of life that do not involve dementia patients. Also, I bet this would work better in Europe than in the US. Everyone would be looking for their car.

Mar. 31 2010 07:27 PM
Michael Johnson

A wonderful story! And an even better illustration of how innovative thinking can generate a more human and human response. Given the alternatives open to the staff this is simply brilliant! I have included it in our blog


Mar. 30 2010 07:45 PM
Warren Nelson

You guys nail another one! Congrats on helping find compassion and dignity in the brutal world of fading memories.

Mar. 30 2010 01:26 PM

the spelling is "G-O-E-B-E-L," though as is evident I can offer you no suggestions on pronunciation!

Mar. 30 2010 11:02 AM

But with an umlaut over the U.

Mar. 29 2010 10:27 PM

Love when video collides in 3D!

Mar. 29 2010 04:10 PM

The Bus Stop is absolutely not a lie. I did something similar once when my mother-in-law started wandering. She had worked as administrative assistant for an Admiral at NOAA and insisted that he had called and wanted her to deliver some papers, shoving a weird assortment of stuff into a purse and taking off at a fast walk. After thinking a bit, I realized the best way to help her was to enter her world. So I ran after her and told her that he had called back and said never mind, he didn't need the papers until tomorrow. So she was relieved and came back home and had her dinner and went to bed.

When people enter this phase of Alzheimer's they are reliving parts of their past for some reason; and entering their world allows them to do so until the moment has passed. It is far better for them than attempting to force them to accept a world that they cannot accept at the time.

Mar. 28 2010 08:18 PM

This is a beautifully crafted story expertly rendered for radio. Once again, the Rad-Lab comes through with atomic force - great job, Lulu Miller!

Mar. 27 2010 05:02 PM
Bob DeMarco

A simple but wonderful solution to a real problem.

This audio sends a good message to Alzheimer's caregivers. Look for simple solutions to problems caused by erratic Alzheimer's behaviors.

Mar. 27 2010 02:16 PM
Mikes Indianapolis Homes For Sale

Great story and idea. I've had a couple of people in my life that this happened to. At time, they lived in their own world. Other times, they surprised me by how much they remembered. I always found it better to let them think and remember as they wish. It always reverts back to now in a short while.

Mar. 26 2010 05:23 PM
Dave Barraza

No need to throw Lulu under the bus (pun?) for choosing "Bus Stop" by the Fatback Band as closing music. The track was immediately added to my collection. Liked it.

Mar. 26 2010 04:16 PM
Cristobal Delicia

I would like to know the spelling of the hard-to-pronounce German name (Goerble?) It sounds like an easy mistake that I personally would like to avoid. Great story!

Mar. 26 2010 02:02 PM

Hey Scott, I had the same feeling about the bus stop being called a lie (though it doesn't stop me from loving Lulu's story).

I wrote up a brief commentary on that topic from this Short if you're interested or would like to comment on if it's what you're thinking too:

Good to be hearing Lulu's stories again!

Mar. 25 2010 07:01 PM

Wonderful tale. And I look forward to hearing more stories from Lulu

Mar. 25 2010 05:06 PM

Alison Szewczyk -- the podcast you're looking for is the one entitled "Morality". Just jump to the home page for the Radiolab website and you'll be able to stream it directly from here, or DL it in iTunes. One of my favorites, and one I typically use to get others hooked on this show!

Mar. 25 2010 04:56 PM

Love this! My grandma has just relocated to assisted living- cause of Dementia... I wish there was a bus stop there for her... Thank you so much for such a wonderful short! Radiolab is amazing!

Mar. 25 2010 02:05 PM

This is great! As an audio engineer and a resident of Düsseldorf living in Los Angeles, I think this is a great story and a wonderfully produced podcast. Great sense of playing with language and storytelling!

Mar. 25 2010 01:14 PM

I don't really consider the bus stop to be a lie. With a lie there is an intent to deceive in order to benefit the liar by severing the person being lied to from reality long enough to obtain some benefit.
With the bus stop, the person allegedly being lied to is in a state of delusion or untruth. The staff are trying to bring the disturbed residents back from their delusion in as harmless a way as possible.
The bus top is a bridge between two worlds: the delusional world of the resident and the real word. It is a way to meet the suffering victim where they are and gently marshal them back into the shared world of reality.
This is the best episode of Radiolab I have heard to date!

Mar. 25 2010 10:49 AM
Diane Driver

Absolutely lovely. I will include this link in our April, 2010 newsletter
Diane Driver, Resource Specialist
Center on Aging
University of California, Berkeley

Mar. 24 2010 11:26 PM
Alison Szewczyk

How can I find that recent Radio Lab about how the two sides of the brain fight with each other in response to tough ethical questions. The one where they were looking at the brain activity via brain scans while people tried to answer the quections?

Mar. 24 2010 09:53 PM

Great story! I found it particularly relevant because my dad is an activities director at my great-grandmother's retirement home. He has told me countless stories about people running off and staff members struggling to find them. It's an extremely sad situation that really affects the staff, including my dad.

This is a wonderfully inventive way of dealing with this problem. Thanks for the inspiring story, RadioLab.

Mar. 24 2010 08:06 PM

Amazing! Not only is the program being discussed here incredibly thought-provoking, but the storytelling in this podcast is beautiful-the way the nature sounds punched in so suddenly...I was, in those moments, no longer sitting at my crowded desk near Canal Street in Manhattan, but instead instantly transported to find myself sitting on the most calm, peaceful, reflective bench my mind could conjure, understanding perfectly the benefits that the bus stop affords its patients. Another home run Lulu!

Mar. 24 2010 05:16 PM

I loved this story and the idea of the bus stop. It was, and is, a brilliant idea--it made me think about the urgency that can be felt to go somewhere and the satisfaction when that urgency is met. I think it's a wonderful living metaphor for something that everyone wants in life--that feeling of going somewhere. Perhaps parents of raging adolescents should consider this idea. Thank you for a wonderful, life-affirming story.

Mar. 24 2010 02:55 PM
Michael Slade

Today I listened to your wonderful podcast story about the bus stop. Having had parents who suffered from dementia I found your story touching. The story inspired me to follow your suggestion to send some money. I went to the site (for the first time) hoping to find a PayPal donation button. If it is there, I missed it. Instead, it looks like your fund raising folks want a relationship with me. I'm not looking for a relationship, I just want to send a bit of money. Is there a way to do that without filling in pages of forms? Maybe a PayPal button would get you more money from people like me who are not looking for a long term commitment at the moment.

Mar. 24 2010 12:54 PM
William B

Nice short! I think Lulu is swell.

Mar. 24 2010 08:02 AM

Great short! I think the bus stop idea is a beautiful method of mitigating a widespread fear of assisted living. I will share this with the many others who have late-onset Alzheimer's and dementia in their family.

However, the bus stop is not really a lie, contrary to Lulu and Jad's stated assumption. No one deliberately tells the seniors to wait at the bench, or that something is going to happen there. We think of it as a lie because, to us, the important part is our expectations about the bus: when it comes and where it goes. It's a lie to have a bench and a sign marking a bus stop if you deceive me into not getting home from work on time.

For the seniors, the important part is only that a bus will (probably) come. They have a sense of urgency or deep anxiety that needs to be resolved, and the bus stop is a symbolic destination signaling that they've begun to solve the problem by taking action. They see a familiar roadside bench that symbolizes "going places" without actually going anyplace. While you're waiting for the bus, that's as fast and as far as you can go; you have to wait because you can't control the bus and nothing you do matters until it arrives, so you might as well relax.

The bench and the sign are first and foremost physical truths, and lies only insofar as our superficial expectation. This bench relaxes anxious minds as much as bodies. A burden is lifted because there's no sense worrying until the bus comes, so a forgetful mind easily ambles along to enjoy the beautiful outdoors for a while.

I guess to put it another way, the bus stop is a "truth" in the patient's dream-world that the nurse and Lulu describe. I hope this kind of remedial thinking catches on.


Mar. 24 2010 12:17 AM

I think this fits in there with the best Radiolab segments there. It made me start to cry. I have had older relatives with dimentia and some who simply had lost so much of their senses that they were always in a fuzz. It's sad to see someone aging and slowly losing their mind that way. I'm glad to hear of this one small way people were able to help them.

Mar. 23 2010 09:22 PM

The bus stop is a lovely idea. In the Oscar Winning clay-mation movie "Harvey Krumpet" (, the old people's home had a bus stop installed inside the grounds - a lovely movie about aging.

Mar. 23 2010 08:36 PM

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