The awakening

Zoe hasn’t been sleeping well since she’s getting all four molars at once, but this morning it wasn’t her that woke me up: it was a cop pounding on the front door at 5am.

He was friendly enough and was apologetic for disturbing us. Apparently they’d found a 74 year old alzheimers patient wandering the neighborhood. She thought we were in Gary, Indiana in 1973, and he was trying to figure out where she belonged, and I guess she’d said she recognized our house or something. I told him that no, we’d lived here for 7 years and didn’t know of any older black families or ladies living in the immediate area, but wished him luck.

Sigh. I didn’t get back to sleep as I was contemplating the issue. Of course the difficulty for police, and even concerned citizens, is that these folks wouldn’t necessarily carry ID, meaning there’s really no easy way to work out where they go. Obviously tattooing an ID number on them isn’t the way to go, but what do you do?

A while back I heard a story out of Germany about a retirement home that had a problem with escaping patients like this. They decided to put a fake bus stop out by the street, with a rain cover and a nice bench. Because Germany’s mass transit is very commonly used and nationally run, all these stops look the same. The patients would walk out of the hospital thinking they had to get home, and they’d recognize the bus sign and sit down. After a little while one of the attendents would see them sitting out there and head over, sit down with them, and offer to let them come inside for some coffee or something, to which the patient would agree and all would be set right. Actually I think I mentioned this on my old site, but whatever, it’s relevant again all of the sudden.

Now it seems funny on the surface, but it’s a positively brilliant solution to a delicate problem. The patient can sit in a safe spot with a somewhat familiar situation, waiting for the bus, and it prevents anyone from getting lost or hurt. The bus people know not to pick anyone up there. It’s a gentle touch that I appreciate.

Unfortunately with mass transit so reviled in the US, it wouldn’t work here. Some folks may suggest implanting RFID tags in these patients, but I find that more than a little invasive. If there was a way to take someone’s old but familiar jewelry and embed one there, perhaps… I dunno. Just don’t know.