It’s not uncommon for family caregivers to hear their loved one repeatedly say, “I want to go home.” First, try your best to stay calm. Then, try to remember that this desire is simply a request for help.
There are three good ways to respond. Any one of them may work one time and not another. Don’t get discouraged; it will get easier with experience.
- Reassure and comfort. Approach your loved one with a calm, soothing and relaxed manner. They’ll pick up on your body language and the tone of your voice, and will often adapt to match you. Sometimes, “I want to go home” means she is tense, anxious or scared and needs extra comfort to feel safe. If she likes hugs, this is a good time for one! Others may prefer gentle strokes or pats, favorite music, or cuddling with a soft blanket.
- Avoid reasoning and explanations. Don’t try to explain that she’s already in her own home, or that she’s been living with you for the past 3 years. Trying to use logic and reason with someone who has a brain disease will only make them more insistent, agitated and distressed. They won’t be able to process that information and will only sense that you’re preventing them from doing something they feel strongly about.
- Agree, then redirect and distract. This is a challenging technique, so don’t give up if your first few tries don’t work perfectly. Being able to redirect and distract is a skill that improves with practice. Start by agreeing. Say something like, “OK, we’ll go soon.” Or “That’s a good idea. We’ll go as soon as I finish cleaning up here.” As soon as you agree, redirect them to something else. This redirection should lead to a pleasant, distracting activity that will take their mind away from wanting to go home — at least for a little while.
If nothing is working, trying going for a drive. It might take a stop for ice cream, but eventually you’ll be able to go back without protest.
This terrible disease forces people to live in their own version of reality. The best thing you can do is step into that reality so you can provide the care they need. At CountryHouse we know how hard it is, because that’s what our staff is trained to do every day.
Have a question about Alzheimer’s or dementia care? Call Nicole at (308) 381-1988 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.