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I Want to Go Home

By Erin Wallace, Seasons Family Support and Education Specialist

“I want to go home.” Have you ever been faced with this statement by a loved one, when they are already in their own home? Perhaps even the home they have lived in for over 50 years? Here are some things to consider when faced with this common situation, and best practices to help both you and your loved one.

Remember that this person has a progressive form of dementia, and their ability to reason may no longer be present. Reasoning with or reassuring the person that this is their home may cause you more stress and frustration. A person living with signs and symptoms of dementia will often live in their
own reality, and telling them that this is their home will lead to increased anxiety, agitation, and determination.

“I want to go home” is usually a request for comfort rather than actually leaving. The goal is to reduce their anxiety and fear so they can let go of the notion to leave. Remember that the person will mimic your actions, and staying calm is very important. Try validating their feelings of missing home, share that you miss home too. Then redirect the person in talking about fond memories of home. You could use statements such as, “Your home sounds lovely, tell me more about it” or use open ended questions to help engage the person in a conversation. Another idea is to say something like, “That’s a good idea. Let’s finish up the dishes first.” You may want to consider trying other things that provided comfort to the person before the onset of dementia.

Try taking a car ride if possible. This will help validate their thoughts about leaving. Drive through a part of town that would be relaxing and enjoyable to the person. Stop for coffee or an ice cream cone to distract their thoughts. When going back home, try not to mention being back home as you don’t want to trigger this memory again.

Look for any additional meaning this phrase may hold. If the person is living with more advanced cognitive loss, they may be trying to express that they are scared, tense, anxious or in pain. When caregiving for someone with a progressive impairment, it is important to look beyond the surface, as there are often hidden meanings in their messages.