It’s very common for dementia patients to express a need or desire to go home, even when they are in a home they’ve lived in for many years. It’s important for caregivers to respond in a positive way in order to reduce the person’s anxiety. The following are three ways to respond when an Alzheimers patient says, “I want to go home.”
Help The Person Connect To Memories Of Home
When a person with dementia talks about home, he or she is likely not thinking of their most recent residence. In fact, the wish to go home arises just as often whether people are still living at home or have moved to a secure memory care facility. Sometimes, the person may be expressing a wish to return to the past or recapture fading memories.
That’s why it can help to talk about home and what it means. What place is the person thinking about? Who is living there? What are some happy memories associated with that home? Revisiting a past home in conversation and by looking at pictures can provide some comfort when a dementia patient is experiencing the anxiety of loss and disorientation.
Provide A Pleasant Distraction
When a person with dementia is persistent in expressing the need to go home, it can be helpful to redirect his or her attention with a pleasant activity. For example, you could say, “Let’s have a snack first,” and then get the person involved in simple food preparation, like arranging cheese slices on crackers. The task of preparing and eating food can be a positive distraction that can ease a person’s anxiety.
Another effective distraction can be a request for help. For example, you might say, “I’ll be happy to take you home, but I need to get this laundry folded first. Can you help me fold some towels?” Often people with dementia find it soothing to engage in familiar, rote tasks, and having a job to do can help them focus on the moment. As the person progresses through the different stages of dementia, his or her ability to engage in meaningful activities will change, and caregivers may need to experiment with different approaches.
Take A Walk Or A Drive
When a person with dementia is standing at the door and demanding to be taken home, sometimes the best approach is to take him or her outside. You can take a walk together or go for a drive, and when the person with dementia becomes tired, you can say, “Let’s go home now.” If walking is an option, the exercise can help to reduce agitation and stress. Returning to a familiar place after an outing can be comforting, and the dementia patient will probably welcome the sense of safety that his or her current home provides.
It’s natural to feel upset or frustrated when your loved one persists in asking for something you can’t do, but responding with anger will only make the situation worse. The best way to handle this type of situation is to remain calm and patient and try to redirect the person’s attention. Often telling a “therapeutic lie” is more practical than trying to force the dementia patient to accept an upsetting truth.