It can be difficult to hear your loved one asking to go home, whether they are living with you or in a care facility, but there are some useful tips that will help you handle the situation without causing frustration.
At times, a person with Alzheimer’s may ask to go home. To make the situation more challenging, it isn’t always clear which home they are talking about—they might mean their childhood home, and it may even happen even if they’re in the home they have lived for most of their adulthood.
This can be frustrating for caregivers, but correcting them will often end in frustration for both parties. Instead, try these responses to help soothe your loved one.
Understand And Acknowledge The Desire To Go Home
Perhaps the most important thing is not to insist to them that they are already home. Instead, try and understand and acknowledge their feelings behind the desire to go home. Start by finding out where ‘home’ is for them, and get them to talk about what made them happy there. Their responses can give you some insight into what’s making them unhappy at the moment, and how you can help them feel better.
Reassure Them That They’re Safe
The desire to go home could stem from the person with dementia feeling unsafe in a place that seems unfamiliar to them in the moment. At these times, reassure the person by responding with positive words in a calm manner. If it is appropriate, a gentle touch on their arm or shoulder can also be a way of offering some reassurance that you are looking out for them.
Redirect Their Attention
Start by agreeing and validating their request with a response like “Ok, let’s leave after you’ve finished your meal”. After that, subtly redirect their attention by using pleasant activities that will distract them from wanting to go home. For example, point out a bird that flies past the window, or offer them a snack that they like before casually shifting to an activity that’s part of your daily routine.
Asking the person with dementia to talk about their home is also a way of validating their response. You can ask what their favourite room was, why they liked it, and generally encourage them to talk more about their memories there. You can also take out some old photo albums and start reminiscing together. During the conversation, there will be ways to redirect their attention away from the thoughts of wanting to go home.
Log The Incidents
It can be useful to keep a log of when they ask to go home. Note down the time and what was happening when they asked to go home. Does it generally happen in the mornings, or during mealtimes? Perhaps they ask when the environment gets noisier, or when there are visitors? By keeping track of these details, you will have a better idea of what to expect, and take the necessary steps to lessen or avoid some triggers.
Taking note of conversation topics and activities that are useful as a distraction will also help you respond better each time the request comes up.