"We Are Home": Responding to a Loved One's Request to Go Home
Have you ever been at home with your loved one who has Alzheimer's when they tell you they want to go home? My mom used to say this whenever I took care of her while my dad was out.
I used to think she was confused about where she was, thinking she was somewhere other than her home. But over time, I learned that home was no longer a place for my mom - home was a feeling.
More of a feeling than a place
When my mom said she wanted to go home, she really meant that she wanted to feel safe and secure the way she felt at home. She also usually wanted my dad because he had become her security blanket.
My mom did not actually want to go to a physical place she thought was her home. She just wanted to feel at home.
We are home
For the longest time, whenever my mom said, "I want to go home," I would tell her that she was home. I would explain that we were at her house and that my dad would be back home shortly.
Eventually, I learned this was not the best way to respond to my mom. No amount of explaining or rationalizing would have convinced her that she was at home.
Responding to mom's request to go home
Fortunately, I found a better way to handle my mom's request to go home. I want to walk you through a scenario and explain how I would respond.
I am sitting with my mom in the living room of her house when she says, "Okay, I want to go home now."
I sit closer to my mom and gently take her hand to let her know I'm there and talking to her when I speak. I respond, "I know, Mom. You can go home in a little while. Dad will come here to pick you up."
By saying this, I acknowledge her reality and how she feels. I never want to dismiss my mom's reality or feelings, even if it doesn't make sense to me. No one likes having their feelings dismissed!
Second time around
That may be enough to satisfy her request, or she may repeat herself, saying, "I want to go home." Or, "Okay, I have to get back home now."
If she repeats herself, I gently squeeze her hand so she knows I'm still talking to her and reiterate, "You can go home soon, Mom. Dad will be here to pick you up. How about we have lunch or listen to music while we wait for him?"
There are a lot of different options you could say instead. Here are a few examples:
- "Why don't we make a snack first?"
- "Let's watch our favorite show until he gets here."
- "How about we take a short walk while we wait?"
You know your loved one better than anyone, so choose an option that would interest them the most. The point is to distract your loved one with something else and redirect their attention to that new thing so they will no longer focus on wanting to go home.
When all else fails
Most of the time, I could distract my mom with another activity, and she would stop asking to go home for a while.
However, she usually started asking again after some time had passed. There were days when she asked every few minutes, so I repeated the process above - acknowledge, distract, redirect, repeat.
Days when it doesn't work
This process usually got us through until my dad arrived home, but there were days it didn't work either.
On those days, I kept trying to find something that worked. I might have said, "There's no place like home! What do you like most about being home?" Or, I would ask her to tell me about her home and what it looked like.
I also tried saying, "Okay, Mom, we can walk home. Are you ready?" And then, I would get her up to walk around the house or even outside for a little while, telling her we were home when we got back to the house.
Put your own spin on it
If you are dealing with your loved one asking to go home, I hope some of these ideas will work for you. Don't be afraid to get creative and put your own spin on it. You know your loved one best! Sometimes, an idea needs to be tweaked a little bit to work for your loved one. And your loved one doesn't have to be home for this process to work. They could be anywhere.
Remember, home is not a place - it's a feeling. Home could mean, "I'm hungry or thirsty," "I'm anxious or bored," or even "I'm uncomfortable with the way I'm sitting." Just do your best to make your loved one feel at home.
What techniques have you utilized when your loved one wants to home? Have you found these methods to be helpful? Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
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