Hospital builds replica bus stop to calm dementia patients

Hospital builds a replica bus stop in its A&E department to calm anxious dementia patients with a familiar sight from their past

  • Southend University Hospital in Essex  has constructed the pretend bus stop
  • Staff hope it will provide a familiar and soothing sight for patients with dementia
  • People with the condition may end up confused, lost and anxious in hospital

A hospital has built a replica bus stop inside its A&E department to help people with dementia feel at home.

Southend University Hospital has constructed the stand with its own sign, timetable and bench – but no buses will be driving through the department.

It’s hoped the stop will provide a familiar sight for people suffering from the brain-damaging disease, which can leave them feeling lost, confused and anxious.

Research has found giving dementia patients something they remember well to look at can help to calm them down – and a bus stop may be recognisable for many.

Southend University Hospital has worked with Arriva bus company to build a replica bus stop in its A&E department to help patients with dementia feel more comfortable

‘Research has found that individuals become much more relaxed at the sight of a bus stop, sitting down and waiting for their “bus home”,’ said Sarah Ecclestone, a senior nurse at the hospital. 

‘Unfortunately, patients with dementia often have short term memory problems and can become agitated in unfamiliar surroundings, often wandering, with the common theme of patients wanting to go home.

‘Although patients may have short term memory loss, they are often able to recall familiar everyday landmarks from their long term memory and a bus stop can be one of those.’

Dementia is well known for causing memory loss, and with this forgetfulness can come a higher risk of getting lost, confused or disorientated.

A loss of short-term memory is often what causes this disorientation or confusion – people may forget how they got somewhere, why they’re there or simply not recognise the place.

Long-term memories may persist, however, and showing a patient a photo or place which they remember well from their past may comfort them and make them feel more in control.

To this end, scientists have been developing replica towns and self-contained villages to help people with dementia.

In the US, a 1950s-themed town has been created in San Diego for this purpose.

Town Square looks like a movie set and has a diner, vintage car and old movie theatre which people can visit to reminisce about sights familiar to them. 

And in France, a specially designed village is being built where people with dementia will actually be able to live.

The village will be self-contained and secure but have its own supermarket, hairdresser and gym, all run by plain-clothes nurses.

This will allow the patients to live lives as independent as they can without being confined to nursing homes. 

Around 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, which causes nerve connections in the brain to break down.

The condition is most often caused by Alzheimer’s disease and cannot be cured.

Among its symptoms are increasing difficulty understanding language, forgetfulness, poor co-ordination and disorientation.

In hospital, patients may often want to go home because they are surrounded by strange sights and people and don’t understand what’s happening.

The bus stop will hopefully act as a distraction for some, the hospital staff say.

Ms Ecclestone added: ‘It is something they often become fixated upon, and this installation will help put them at ease and take away some of that anxiety.’ 

The development is one of a number of dementia-friendly strategies the hospital has put in place.

It has also put all signs and badges on yellow background which are believed to be easier for people with dementia and sight problems to read.

And a fake cat which purrs and makes breathing movements, and is named Socks, has been introduced to help calm agitated patients.   

Bus company Arriva, which runs services in the area, helped to construct the pretend bus stop. 

General manager for Arriva Herts & Essex, Colin Wright, said: ‘We are delighted to be involved in such a thoughtful project.

‘When Southend Hospital first approached us, we were honoured to be considered, and even happier to help. 

‘If the bus stop makes even just one person smile, we’ll consider it a success.’


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain.

There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.


The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, of which more than 500,000 have Alzheimer’s.

It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.

In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.


Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.

Source: Dementia UK 

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