How to respond to “I want to go home!”

“I want to go home.”  Many caregivers hear this from their loved one even when their loved one is sitting in the living room of the home they have lived in for many years. It also happens when there’s a change in environment or routine.

It’s upsetting to think your loved one no longer recognizes the environment around them, but this is part of the disease. The person may not believe they are in their home because they truly don’t recognize it. Or that person is likely not speaking literally but searching for the feeling of home – a sense of familiarity, security or comfort. So, what do you do in this situation?

As you so often do, you want to connect to the emotions behind the words instead of reorienting them to their place. In other words, “connect, don’t correct.” Validate their emotions and try to meet the emotional need. A hug or hand holding can soothe. Ask them to tell you about home and they may be able to tell you about the feeling of home.

If it’s not upsetting, you can reminisce about home, possibly using photographs in a photo album.  If this upsets the person, distract them with a pleasurable activity – a walk, a favorite snack, or listening to music. You might need to make up an excuse as to why they can’t go home – “the house is being painted; we’ll go later” and distract with an activity.

Reassurance and comfort go a long way; let your loved one know they are safe, taken care of and loved.

Helpful information related to this link

Repetition and Alzheimer’s

Memory Loss and Confusion

Suspicion, Delusions and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Message Boards

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9 Responses

  1. Anna says:

    It’s upsetting to think your loved one no longer recognizes the environment around them, but this is part of the disease.

  2. Dilip says:

    Totally agree Norm! To add to this:In the later stages when it is not posisble for sufferers to arrange things themselves it should be made easier for volunteer visitors much like hospital befrienders to access carehomes to visit those who have no-one else. Just because dementia sufferers cannot remember anything does NOT give anyone the right to ignore or take advantage (which seems to be happening a lot.); especially with specialists who see a patient once saying there is nothing that can be done. Solitary confinement is not deserved but many of our aged suffer this indignity. A great deal of difference in behaviour is seen with regular visits; contact and providing useful tasks and entertainment for all.We Mum and I have had a great deal of support from our community already in the form of the local pub displaying an art exhibition for Mum’s sketches which were enjoyed by all and raised awareness; tombola in town on Dementia Awareness Day 17th September; plant sales at car boots etc.This proves that Dementia sufferers even in a later stage of the disease can be involved in the local community and continue to enjoy (even just for that moment) being in a society that really cares. Dementia UK (Cornwall) I note are promoting Admiral Nursing excellent idea as we currently have none operating in Colrnwall and this should be rolled out everywhere.

  3. Pam says:

    We have been watching my 63 year old brother lose his memory, search for words, change his lifestyle , etc. for over four years. We’ve been working with doctors for all those years trying to get a definitive answer to his illness, which was always memory loss. After an MRI, CAT scan, EEG, vocational therapy, a neurologist diagnosed my brother with semantic dementia, very rare, early onset Alzheimer’s & aphasia. We got a call this January that my brother was found sleeping in his car and brought to a hospital incoherent. When I walked into his ER room, he did not recognize me or my husband. Since then, my brother has been in two psyche hospitals & finally an assisted living facility. He is docile and very kind to employees, but does not recognize his children or siblings anymore. He calls me twice a week (phone # on paper) and stumbles thru trying to make conversation. Then, he starts begging me to come & get him because he has things to do. Whenever I go to visit him, he corners me & begs me to take him home. I have to try to change the subject, or leave. I’m very depressed, and in therapy. We have told my brother that he can’t drive anymore, but he insists he will buy a new car. We are in the process of selling his house… So he will never have a home to go back to. I’m at such a loss as how to address the issue of him wanting to go home every time we talk. I know this is a symptom of these diseases, but what can I do?

  4. louise bizeau says:

    every time I go to visit my husband wih alzheimers, he is always wanting to come home, how do I deal with this.

    • Bruce says:

      No one seems to have a good answer to this. I’m at a loss also.

      • pguinto says:

        Hi Bruce and Louise, we recommend giving our helpline a call at 800.272.3900. We have staff on call 24/7 that may be able to make suggestions to help your situation.

  5. Phil lawless says:

    There really is no answer for this. Continue to respect your loved one as a real person and cling to the hope that it will be sorted out in the future. The brain cells are not doing what they should, but the person behind them is still real.

  6. peace says:

    right Dilip. Even so called Alzheimer experts let loved ones off the hook that it’s too painful to watch your loved one with Alzheimers and to not visit. Loved ones aren’t the victims and it’s our responsiblity to do your best to visit them. They can’t just be discarded and dumped in a nursing home and family to believe they aren’t missed. They miss being touched and hugged. And I could tell a few family members while hugging has not been a big part of our family culture, it’s never too late.
    Yes, they are steal the same person, but somewhat like a baby or toddler and easy to comfort or entertain. Just to be acknowledged they are still a human being.

    My 90’s father heard a band at the nursing home of songs in the late 30’s and early 40’s and could sing all the words and remembered things of his childhood home. He has asked for his mother and father and while, this might seem like last stage, he has periods of amazing cognitive skills I that are like a two year old climbing and, and awareness of many current things.
    I have found that when he really is out of it there is some reason for it, and often he’s not drinking enough liquids are saw something frightening. And he is an escape artist and I will be the same way I fear. Some don’t want to wonder far at all.

  7. My father has Alzheimer’s, and we are looking at having him moved to an assisted living facility simply because we cannot give him the adequate care he needs. He is currently living with us, and we hear this phrase all the time. As you suggested, I think we should try and validate his emotions and try to connect with him more on an emotional level. Hopefully finding a good care facility will be able to help with this as well.

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