When a Loved One Says, “I Want to Go Home”

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By the editors of Caring.com 

It can be one of the more wrenching sentences to hear when your loved one with dementia has been relocated for safety’s sake: “I want to go home.” Yet it’s also surprisingly common.

Here’s how to interpret and respond to a plea to “go home.”

  • Know that it’s probably not homesickness that’s being expressed.

You might hear “I want to go home” said by someone who’s new to a living situation or has been there contentedly for years. It’s said by people with dementia who are living in nursing homes, with their adult children, and even in their own homes of decades.

  •  Realize that “home” may not be where you think.

Someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is often not referring to the place her or she most recently moved from, but to an earlier home, or even a childhood home. Even more likely, he or she is using the word “home” as a concept — a longing for expression of somewhere that feels comforting and safe.

  • Don’t insist on a road trip.

Understand that because “home” is more of a feeling than an exact place, it probably won’t resolve anything to take the time and effort to get your loved one with dementia to a past home. It may only confuse or irritate if he or she doesn’t connect the purpose of the trip, doesn’t remember the place, or doesn’t understand who the strangers are who live there now.

  • Investigate the living situation and well-being of your loved one.

Sometimes a plea for home is an expression of unhappiness or a plea for help. It’s not necessarily a dislike of the present “home,” or a desire to go home with you, but perhaps something as elemental as physical discomfort. So do listen — and look — closely. Does your loved one seem well cared for? Afraid of any caregivers? Losing weight? In pain?

  • Do respond with compassion.

Depending on your loved one, you might say, “Yes, let’s go the next time I can make the trip” (if you’re pretty sure she won’t remember). Or if there’s a reference to a particular home, you could explain the reality: “It burned down awhile back.” “It’s not in the family anymore.”

  • Invite conversation: “I know you love home. Tell me about it.”

This can deflect from the immediate issue of taking your loved one anywhere, and it can be both soothing and insightful.


[Caring.com](http://www.caring.com) is the leading online destination for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. For more ideas about how to cope with your loved one’s stage of dementia, see the [Steps & Stages](http://www.caring.com/steps-stages/alzheimers) Alzheimer’s Care Guide.


Source: http://www.theseniorcareblog.com

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