How To Respond When Your Aging Parent With Dementia Says I Want To Go Home
One of the most heartbreaking things you can hear from your aging parent with dementia is: I want to go home. While its not unusual to hear this from people who are living in a memory care community, it is distressing for those who love them. If youre a caregiver whose loved one lives with them, you may hear this phrase as well.
When your loved one has dementia, explaining that theyre already home or they cant go back home doesnt work, says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. Logic doesnt work, so we as caregivers or adult children need to look at the situation from a different perspective in order to help comfort and calm our parent.
Oftentimes, when a parent is saying I want to go home, they arent actually meaning that they want to go home. Its more of a request for comfort, says Andrea. Their current environment isnt familiar to them for some reason, or theyre hurting in some way or theyre simply afraid. In this case, home is shorthand for a place that is familiar and comfortable, so we as caregivers should focus on reassuring our loved ones and figuring out what is really bothering them.
Why Not Try This
Challenging dementia behaviors can be super-stressful. This basic approach can help stretch your patience and move you both toward a more peaceful quality of life.
Best of all, you can start using the Why-This, Try-This approach right away, even if youve been responding differently before.
To make these steps simple to refer to, Ive compiled a free downloadable PDF, 7 Steps to Managing Difficult Dementia Behaviors Without Medication, A Surviving Alzheimers Cheatsheet.
Get Your Free Managing Dementia Behaviors Cheatsheet.
Questions, suggestions, or try tips that work well for you? Please post them below!
Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimers: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers . You can learn more at survivingalz.com.
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Repetitive Speech Or Actions
People with dementia will often repeat a word, statement, question, or activity over and over. While this type of behavior is usually harmless for the person with dementia, it can be annoying and stressful to caregivers. Sometimes the behavior is triggered by anxiety, boredom, fear, or environmental factors.
- Provide plenty of reassurance and comfort, both in words and in touch.
- Try distracting with a snack or activity.
- Avoid reminding them that they just asked the same question. Try ignoring the behavior or question, and instead try refocusing the person into an activity such as singing or âhelpingâ you with a chore.
- Donât discuss plans with a confused person until immediately prior to an event.
- You may want to try placing a sign on the kitchen table, such as, âDinner is at 6:30â or âLois comes home at 5:00â to remove anxiety and uncertainty about anticipated events.
- Learn to recognize certain behaviors. An agitated state or pulling at clothing, for example, could indicate a need to use the bathroom.
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If He Or She Doesn’t Recognise Their Environment As ‘home’ At That Moment Then For That Moment It Isn’t Home
Try this instead:
Try to understand and acknowledge the feelings behind the wish to go home. Find out where ‘home’ is for them – it might not be the last place they lived. It could be where they lived before moving recently or it could be somewhere from their distant past.
Often people with dementia describe ‘home’ as a pleasant, peaceful or idyllic place where they were happy. They could be encouraged to talk about why they were happy there. This can give an idea as to what they might need to feel better.
How To Respond When Someone With Dementia Says I Want To Go Home
Many dementia caregivers have heard their loved one say I want to go home, sometimes while they are even in their own home. Sometimes its their home of 30 years. Thats frustrating when logic says the problem is already solved.
Or sometimes theyre in a memory care unit or nursing home or somewhere else where going home is no longer an option. That can be heartbreaking in a different way, when you know you have to disappoint them, when they are so upset, when all you want is for them to understand the reason they have to stay where they are.
Repetitive statements and questions can be frustrating, and this one can be especially difficult to deal with, no matter where home actually is. A helpful first step is to consider *why* they say this, and whether their request should be taken at face value.
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Avoid Arguing About Whether They Are Already Home’
For a person with dementia, the term ‘home’ may describe something more than the place they currently live. Often when a person with dementia asks to go home it refers to the sense of home rather than home itself.
Home may represent memories of a time or place that was comfortable and secure and where they felt relaxed and happier. It could also be an indefinable place that may not physically exist.
Its best not to disagree with the person or try to reason with them about wanting to go home.
How To Respond To I Want To Go Home
Address the emotion behind their words. When responding to their request, its best to focus your response on providing comfort and reassurance. Listen for what they are feeling behind their request – do you think they are anxious? Afraid? Confused? As dementia progresses, people are less and less able to put their feelings into words, and how they feel tends to come out in behavior, including repetitive questions and statements, instead.
Approach them in a calm and soothing manner and validate and respond to the emotion instead. If you stay calm, it is more likely they will start calming down.
Put their feelings into words by saying something like You must be feeling worried or Its hard that this place is so unfamiliar or I can understand if youre feeling sad right now.
And then do whatever you can to offer comfort. If they like hugs or holding hands or sitting close or having their arm or back rubbed, do that. Give them a blanket or other comforting object.
Join them in their reality. Trying to use logic and reasoning to get them to understand their situation or to convince them of a reality that is not their own will likely only make them more upset. Dont say things like But you *are* home, dad or This is your home now.
Again, validate that you hear their desire by simply saying I know you want to go home, or I wish you could go home too. If they feel heard and understood, they are more likely to be able to calm down.
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Connect With A Dementia
In Johns Hopkins Maximizing Independence at Home trial,researchers found that patients who were in contact with a care coordinatorat least once a month for 18 months were 50 percent less likely to move toan institution or pass away than those in the control group. Carecoordinators can help with safety concerns, medical attention, medicationmanagement, legal andadvance-care-planningadvice, nutrition support and more. They can be especially helpful when aloved one is dealing with other medical conditions for which she needstreatmentand research has shown that about 60 percent are.
The Benefits Of Reminiscence Therapy For Dementia
Reminiscence therapy can give seniors with dementia a feeling of success and confidence because its something theyre still able to do.
It gives them an opportunity to talk and share something meaningful rather than just listen to others speak.
Talking about happy memories of the past also brings joy, which is especially helpful if your older adult is having a hard time with everyday life it helps them cope with stress.
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How To Respond To A Dementia Patient Who Wants To Go Home
For a loved one who has dementia, the world is turned upside down. We have no way of knowing exactly what happens in the brain and with the emotions of a person with dementia, but we do have evidence of what kind of communication works best.
Each person with dementia will respond and behave in an individual fashion that may have nothing to do with their previous personality.
Take Them For A Brief Car Ride
If nothing seems to work, agree to take them home and then take them for a brief car drive. Be able to adapt to the circumstances.Alzheimers damages a persons brain and causes them to experience the world in a different way. Be patient enough to meet them where they are and focus on reassuring and comforting them.
Devoted Guardians’ Response to COVID-19
Devoted Guardians is actively monitoring the progression of the coronavirus, COVID-19, to ensure that we have the most accurate and latest information on the threat of the virus. As you know, this situation continues to develop rapidly as new cases are identified in our communities and our protocols will be adjusted as needed.
While most cases of COVID-19 are mild, causing only fever and cough, a very small percentage of cases become severe and may progress particularly in the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions. Because this is the primary population that Devoted Guardians serves, we understand your concerns and want to share with you how our organization is responding to the threat of COVID-19.
We are following updates and procedures from the Centers for Disease Control State Department of Health, local and county authorities, the Home Care Association of America and other agencies and resources. Our response and plans may adjust according to the recommendations from these organizations.
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Agree Redirect & Distract
You need to be able to redirect and distract the patients. It is quite an effective technique. Begin by agreeing with them. You can promise to take them home. This will calm them down. Afterwards, skillfully redirect their attention to other pleasant and distracting activities that will take their mind away from wanting to go home. At first, this may appear difficult but you become perfect with more practice.
Tips For Handling A Seniors Aggression
Most importantly, try not to take the aggressive behavior personally, Hashmi says.
The classic line I always use is that this is the disease talking. It is not the person, Hashmi says. There is a lack of awareness in that moment. Its not your mom or dad or spouse saying that. Its the disease.
When you are faced with a loved ones aggression, Hashmi suggests employing these 4 Rs:
When theyre feeling calmer, Hashmi says, you can try asking yes/no questions to help determine whether an unmet need is causing the behavior. Ask: Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you in pain? Are you tired?
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Comfort And Reassure Your Loved Ones To Validate Their Needs
In most cases, our olderadults say, I wish to go home to mean that theyre anxious, tense, scared andthat they need extra care and comfort.
The best way you canhandle the situation is by giving a calm response and in a positive manner. Bydoing so, youll be validating your loved ones feelings and needs. This will,in turn, make them feel more understood and comforted.
Responding to your olderadult with a soothing, relaxed, and calm manner helps them calm down as well.If your loved ones like hugs, give it to them. Others may feel good when givengentle strokes or touches on their shoulder or arm. Others will feel comfortedand supported if you sit down with them.
Treat Your Caregiving As A Condition
Many caregivers constantly debate and struggle with their loved ones aboutpotentially dangerous tasks, such as cooking and driving. Those powerstruggles compound the physical and mental burden of the care itself.Thats why, as the illness progresses, in addition to managing thecomplications of the illness, we focus care on the caregiver, saysJohnston. Try to find ways to arrange frequent breaks, respite care andstress-relief measures as your mandatory medicine.
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When A Senior With Dementia Says I Just Want To Go Home
I want to go home.
Nearly every dementia caregiver has heard this heartbreaking plea from their loved one. They may already be at home or they may be struggling to accept their new surroundings after a move to long-term care, but this simple statement is still jarring. Home means different things for different people, but dementia tends to take this concept to a new and confusing extreme.
Why Are They Refusing Care
When dementia progresses, some patients become non-verbal and they are not able to fully communicate exactly what they want or why they want it.
And because they are unable to communicate their needs, they may able be unable to understand communication from other people so they can process it. If a patient with dementia is refusing care or help there could be a few reasons, including
- The person doesnt fully understand exactly what they are being asked to do, or why they are being asked to do it. For that reason, they dont want to do something they cant understand the reasoning for.
- They are being asked to do something they dont agree with or doing it goes against what they believe in, so they dont want to do it. For example, if you are asking them to go to bed when they dont want to or dont feel tired they will probably refused to do it.
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How To Make It More Home
Here are some tips and ideas for how to make wherever they live more home-y to them!
If having pictures of their family and friends around makes them happy, put up as many as you can. Being surrounded by this kind of support is amazing. That said, if seeing a bunch of strangers staring at them agitates them, then remove all the pictures of people.
Pictures of places. My Mother In Law grew up in Minnesota so she loves pictures of snow, lakes and woods. Even though we live in Florida now, we have a much more country vibe in her room to help her feel like she belongs.
Warm blankets. Many Alzheimers and dementia people are cold. Having lots of warm blankets around to snuggle up in is an easy way to make comfort. Bonus, with lots of blankets, if they make a mess you can just swap them out and toss them in the washer for a quick clean.
Soft music. Sometimes it is hard not to have things running through your mind when sitting in complete silence. Playing some soft music in the background could help! Try all different eras, some may want jazz, some 80s rock and some might want to go all the way back to the big bands they listened to as kids.
Good smells. Realtors bake cookies before open houses because the smell of baked goods is homey. Make sure that you have great smells in your loved ones rooms. Some might like floral, some spicy and some, like my Mom might like more deep woodsy smells. You can use essential oils, wall air fresheners or scented candles!
Remember: Your Needs As A Caregiver Matter Too
Dealing with dementia behaviors can quickly wear out a caregiver or family member, causing caregiver burnout.
If your loved ones dementia behaviors have progressed to the point where you cannot manage them alone, help is available. Senior care options like home care or memory care can help relieve some of the caregiving burden while also helping to keep your loved one safe.
If you are feeling resentment, anxiety, or depression, seek help. A caregiver support group, counselor, friend, or family member can offer camaraderie and advice.
Other families, other caregivers, are going through the same thing, Hashmi says. They have a lot of common challenges and common solutions to share. And often those are the most effective, because theyre going through exactly the same process.
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Support For Dementia Caregivers At The End Of Life
Caring for people with Alzheimers or other dementias at home can be demanding and stressful for the family caregiver. Depression is a problem for some family caregivers, as is fatigue, because many feel they are always on call. Family caregivers may have to cut back on work hours or leave work altogether because of their caregiving responsibilities.
Many family members taking care of a person with advanced dementia at home feel relief when death happensfor themselves and for the person who died. It is important to realize such feelings are normal. Hospicewhether used at home or in a facility gives family caregivers needed support near the end of life, as well as help with their grief, both before and after their family member dies.