Why Someone with Alzheimer’s Says I Want to Go Home

alzheimer's i want to go home

Seniors with Alzheimer’s often ask to “go home”

Does your older adult with Alzheimer’s or dementia tell you repeatedly that they want to go home? You’re not alone. Many caregivers are dealing with this frustrating issue.

People with dementia can go through a phase where they constantly ask to go home. For many, it doesn’t even matter where they are when they say this – some are in the home they’ve lived in for decades!

To help you understand and cope with this behavior, we explain why they ask to go home and the real meaning behind their words.

 

Someone with dementia doesn’t always mean what they say

When somebody has dementia, they gradually lose the ability to communicate. That means you can’t always take their words at face value.

Often when your older adult says they want to go home, they aren’t actually asking to go to the place they used to live.




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It’s the disease talking

It’s natural for caregivers to feel hurt or offended to hear this. You’ve done your very best to provide excellent care and a warm, safe environment, but it feels like your senior is rejecting all your hard work.

For your own peace of mind, it’s important to try not to take it personally. Because of the changes in their brain, they may not be able to control what they’re saying or might not be able to find the right words to express their true thoughts.

 

What does “I want to go home” really mean?

For most of us, home is the place where we feel the most comfortable, safe, and accepted. Your home is the place where you belong and can be yourself.

Many experts say that people with dementia are trying to express that they need the feeling of ultimate safety, comfort, and control. That’s what “home” means to them.

They may repeatedly ask to go home because they feel:

  • Unsafe or scared
  • Agitated or upset
  • Physically uncomfortable
  • Not familiar with their current environment like a new room, new decor, or new people

Of course, for others, it can mean something totally different, like wanting to go to sleep or needing to go to the bathroom. Pay close attention to their body language and observe their reactions as you check for any physical discomfort or personal hygiene needs.

 

Bottom line

This is a difficult thing for caregivers to hear, but once you understand what they’re really saying, it helps you to not take it as personally. Over time, you’ll be able to figure out what your senior really needs when they say they want to go home.

 

Next Step  Get 3 kind ways to respond when your senior says “I want to go home”

 

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Mitch Hell


12 Comments

  • Reply November 13, 2017

    Annette Huang

    My mother has been in a rest home for 2.5 years. I visit often, but she has begun to phone in the evening wanting to be taken “out of here”. She is mostly aware enough that she can’t live alone, but it is very difficult to distract her since I am not with her. I usually agree to take her away “tomorrow” or “later” but she will often be scornful of that answer and the call ends with her putting the phone down in anger.

    Do you have any suggestions for ways of handling this behaviour from a distance? I don’t think I quite have a handle on it, yet.

  • Reply November 7, 2017

    Patricia Filby

    My husband is in a care facility, and won’t join in any activities, or go out of his room willingly, because all he wants is to go home. He has never let up in 4 years of being in care. For him home is where we are always together, but, at the same time, God bless him, he insists that he needs to get “home” so things will “get back to normal”. Fairly early after his Alzheimer’s showed itself, I was blest to read those wonderfully helpful words “ Enter into his reality”. I am so grateful for all hints, all shared experiences, “tools” that give me something to work with. And in turn I am happy to share anythat might help others on this unexpected and oh-so-difficult journey.
    My heart goes out to all carers and the people they are caring for.

    • Reply November 8, 2017

      DailyCaring

      Big hugs to you! I’m so sorry about your husband 🙁 It makes sense that he would want things to go back to the way they were before the Alzheimer’s affected him. It’s wonderful that you are his “home” and that you can spend time together 💜

  • Reply June 16, 2017

    CAPT 'B'

    Thank you. Very informative and right on!!

    • Reply June 17, 2017

      DailyCaring.com

      So glad this article is helpful!

  • Reply April 21, 2017

    Marilyn Crowell

    I say when they say I want to go home “Me to!! Let’s go soon.” That has worked for several years out of my 35 years doing this caregiving.

  • Reply April 19, 2017

    LC

    Very informative and helpful.Thank you.✨

  • Reply April 10, 2017

    Frena Gray-Davidson

    With regard to “Wanting to go Home,” i think you hit most of the buttons but it helps caregivers to understand when they get it how long-term memory works.
    Usually, in dementia, people live in at least two time-zones. Now, but more likely then. Back in the past — the result of the imperfect connection with the present.
    So the home they want to go to may well be the parental home where they were raised. In which case, it’s worth taking that jump and asking if they’re missing their Mom. If that is their sense of loss, they can very usefully weep a little or a lot, with our comforting arm around them, after which they are usually very receptive to food, drink and activity in this time-zone.

    • Reply April 10, 2017

      DailyCaring

      Great tip! The meaning behind the request to go home depends on the person and where they are in the moment. Asking questions to understand how they’re feeling is a good way to figure out how to respond in a comforting way.

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