3 Ways to Respond When Someone with Alzheimer’s Says I Want to Go Home

Alzheimers dementia i want to go home

3 things to say when seniors with Alzheimer’s say “I want to go home”

Hearing seniors say “I want to go home” over and over again is something Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers often deal with. It’s especially frustrating to hear when they’re already home.

The big question is how to respond in a way that calms them down and helps them let go of the idea.

First, it helps to understand why they’re saying this and what they really meanNext, do your best to not take it personally so you can stay calm too.

Then, try a kind, calming response – we share 3 suggestions. This type of answer helps you avoid upsetting your older adult or getting into a fight and help them let go of their focus on “home.”




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Why someone would ask to go home

“I want to go home” is often a request for comfort rather than literally asking to go somewhere.

When responding, the goal is to reduce your older adult’s anxiety or fear so they can let go of the idea. Helping them to stay calm also gives you a chance to check if discomfort, pain, or a physical need is causing this behavior.

Alzheimer’s and dementia damage the brain and cause a person to experience the world in different ways. The kindest thing to do is meet them where they are, focus on comfort and reassurance, and respond to the emotions behind their request.

These suggestions will put you on the right track, but be prepared to get creative too.

Not everything you try will work the first time. And even if something works once, it might not work every time. Don’t get discouraged, this will get easier with practice.

 

3 kind, calming responses to “I want to go home”

1. Reassure and comfort
Approach your older adult with a calm, soothing, and relaxed manner. If you remain calm, they’ll start calming down too. They’ll pick up on your body language and tone of voice and will subconsciously start to match you.

Sometimes saying “I want to go home” is how they tell you they’re tense, anxious, scared, or in need of extra comfort. If they like hugs, this is a good time for one. Others may prefer gentle touching or stroking on their arm or shoulder or simply having you sit with them.

Another way of giving extra comfort and reassurance is to give them a comforting blanket, therapy doll, or stuffed animal.

2. Avoid reasoning and explanations
Don’t try to explain that they’re in their own home, assisted living is now their home, or they moved in with you 3 years ago.

Trying to use reason and logic with someone who has a brain disease will only make them more insistent, agitated, and distressed. They won’t be able to process that information and will feel like you’re stopping them from doing something they know is important.

3. Agree, then redirect and distract
Being able to redirect and distract is an effective technique. It’s a skill that improves with practice, so don’t feel discouraged if the first few attempts don’t work perfectly.

First, agree and validate
Agree by saying something like “Ok, we’ll go soon.” or “That’s a good idea. We’ll go as soon as I clean up these dishes.” This calms the situation because you’re not telling them they’re wrong.

Next, redirect and distract
After agreeing, subtly redirect their attention. This redirection should lead into pleasant and distracting activities that take their minds away from wanting to go home.

For example, you could gently take their elbow while saying “Ok, we’ll go soon” and walk down the hall together to a big window or to the kitchen. Point out some of the beautiful birds and flowers outside or offer a snack or drink they like. Later, casually shift to another activity that’s part of their daily routine.

Another example is saying “Ok, let’s get your sweater so you won’t be cold when we go outside.” Then, while you’re both walking to get the sweater and chatting about something pleasant, stop for a cup of tea or get involved in an activity they enjoy.

Or, ask them to tell you about their home. After a while, guide the conversation to a neutral topic.

Asking about their home validates their feelings, encourages them to share positive memories, and distracts them from their original goal of going home. Open questions that encourage them to share their thoughts work well.

For example:

  • Your home sounds lovely, tell me more about it.
  • What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home?
  • What is your favorite room of the house?



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What to do if nothing is working

Sometimes, your older adult will be stubborn and refuse to let go of the idea of going home no matter how much you try to soothe or redirect.

If that happens, you might agree to take them home and then take them on a brief car ride.

Experiment with how far and how long you need to drive before you can go back to where they live without protest. Or, suggest a stop at the ice cream shop, drugstore, or grocery store to distract and redirect.

If it’s not possible to actually take them out or get into the car, the actions of getting ready to leave can still be soothing because it shows that you believe them and are helping to achieve their goal.

Meanwhile, the activities of getting ready give you more chances to distract and redirect to a different activity.

 

Next Step  Get a better understanding of why seniors with Alzheimer’s say “I want to go home”

 

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Onecussion


79 Comments

  • Reply April 6, 2019

    Tracy Bailey

    I am a fairly new caregiver and am caring for an elderly man with Dementia, I’m reading a lot and learning a lot, I enjoy helping others but as I reaserch I cannot find anything on my issue. My senior seems to be very attracted to me, talks about his inappropriate thoughts often, I told him that I was very happily married and asked him to keep his thoughts to himself, also let him know, kindly that he keeps his hands off of certain parts of my body. I try to Change the subject, or offer up something to do to get his mind on something else. I remind him how beautiful and kind his wife is. Just wondering if I’m doing the right things and if there are any other suggestions. He is very sweet and kind and I would love to continue with this family, hoping he won’t have to switch to a male caregiver.

    • Reply June 8, 2019

      DailyCaring

      It’s wonderful that you’re doing research and learning more about caring for people with dementia. Having a client say inappropriate things is understandably uncomfortable. It sounds like you’re on the right track in using distractions to handle it.

      We’ve got an article about inappropriate sexual behavior in people with dementia with suggestions on how to handle it. I hope it’s helpful — 9 Ways to Handle Alzheimer’s and Sexually Inappropriate Behavior https://dailycaring.com/9-ways-to-handle-alzheimers-and-sexually-inappropriate-behavior/

  • Reply March 22, 2019

    Stephana

    My mother was able to care for herself petty well despite physical issues.Over the past 6 years she’s had 3 major breaks(one requiring surgery) but she managed to get back to a pretty good standard of living(she’d lived in a senior apartment building(quite lovely with many nice extras to make life good)
    Last year I noticed a change in her personality after a recent stay at a rehab facility (she’d broken her shoulder) I was staying with her for aftercare for 3 weeks and could see the beginning signs of dementia. Getting angry about events that shouldn’t upset her, getting upset about balancing her checkbook….refusing certain kinds of help to keep her safe and cared for alone (First Alert, Meals on wheels) She cancelled them as soon as I left saying “I can take care of myself!!!”
    Recently she was in Physical Rehab for a compression fracture on her lower back(3 months).hen I recently stayed with her-I could see the Dementia had progressed(long and short term memory loss) Forgetting in 10 minutes recent conversations, and her defiance against me letting her help her was tough and she was having a hard time balancing her check book. Last week we finally made the decision to put Mom into a very good nursing home due to another episode with her body(Her leg went numb and she almost fell and had to go to the hospital)
    It’s been hard for me because my mother refused to move closer to me(1000 miles away) Now she is so angry that she is in a nursing home . She said she will disinherit us. I know part of it is fear but it is so upsetting to hear this.
    ( don’t argue with her ) We tried to keep her independent as long as we could.
    She is almost 92(women live long lives in our family)

    • Reply March 22, 2019

      DailyCaring

      It’s wonderful that she’s had such a long and independent life. It sounds like you’ve done as much as you can to help her maintain her independence for as long as possible.

      It’s natural for her to be upset at this big change in her life. It may take some time for her to adjust. Hopefully, she’ll get used to the new routines soon and come to enjoy her new living space.

  • Reply March 3, 2019

    effy

    hello!!
    i am 52 yrs od and live overseas. my mom passed eight yrs previous and i moved back to take care of dad. things were ok till 2014; his health deteriorated rapidly then and all he does ever since is yellin, screaming, calling me (but never my brothers both of whom are married with children and do not bother paying him a visit no matter how much i ask / beg / plead / yell at them to do so). i’ve hired a caretaker but whe excels in med matters she constantly accusing me that i am to blame for dad’s sorry state of being and that in dire contrast with her who’s the closest to perfection. for the past 3 weeks that she was away due to a broken leg i’ve asked around for a pro nurse to come and spend time with dad but everyone fled as for dear life, more so when dad threw his usual temper tantrums. his caregiver did return last week but is now in a rotten mood, worse than before, and i now have to deal with two semicrazies who yell at me. how can keep my mind intact and deal with daily need to go home and that at odd times of the day, at round midnight or siesta time especially???

    • Reply April 3, 2019

      DailyCaring

      Does your dad have a dementia diagnosis? It’s possible that his behavior might be due to undiagnosed or untreated cognitive issues.

      In terms of your hired caregiver, it sounds like it might be helpful to find someone who communicates in a way that helps you as well as providing great care for your dad, rather than causing more stress by behaving in that manner when speaking to you.

      Here are some articles that may be helpful:
      — How Is Dementia Diagnosed? A Geriatrician Explains https://dailycaring.com/how-is-dementia-diagnosed-a-geriatrician-explains/
      — 7 Things You Must Do When Hiring an In-Home Caregiver https://dailycaring.com/7-things-you-must-do-when-hiring-an-in-home-caregiver/
      — 7 Ways to Respond to Mean Dementia Behavior https://dailycaring.com/7-ways-to-respond-to-mean-dementia-behavior/
      — 6 Things to Try Before Using Antipsychotic Medications for Dementia Behaviors https://dailycaring.com/6-things-to-try-before-using-antipsychotic-medications-for-dementia-behaviors/

    • Reply June 23, 2019

      Fiona McLaren

      Dear Effy

      I am sorry to read about your distress.

      As a live in carer… reading your post, it certainly sounds like you need to change carers. It is imperative that the carer is personable and that you feel comfortable with her/him and the care that is being provided. Her yelling at you is totally unacceptable behaviour! One has to have empathy, and be of a calm disposition. Daily Caring are spot on with regard to your dad being diagnosed, and if necessary, they may well be able to assist with prescribing something to calm him. I am not a believer of clients being over medicated, but there are times when a bit of help in this area, would be both beneficial for your dad, you and the care giver.

      I sincerely hope you manage to resolve this soon, as it is not a good place for you to be in and important that you make peace with the situation… perhaps you could reach out and talk with someone? Have you tried contacting a local dementia / care for the elderly group in your area? They can be very supportive and you will find others in a similar position that you are able to share your concerns with.

      Wishing you all the very best.
      Take care

  • Reply February 6, 2019

    Ben

    It sounds a lovely, quiet world you live in. Can we trade? My mom is literally talking about the house (which she picked out and has lived in for 26 years) and geography. In some ways she is highly articulate.But for years now, at varying levels of dementia and even in lucid periods, she insists that this is not her house – she doesn’t recognise it (said for 3 years when nothing had been changed at all), she moved to another state, this is her sister’s house, it isn’t familiar, etc. I can’t just randomly take her out as she is barely mobile enought o get to the bathroom with me halfway carrying her. Not to mention she refuses, point blank, to leaved the house. If I have help to get her out, she comments all the way through her neighborhood about how she used to live here. She’s often worried about needing to pack so she can go home. She expects that wherever home is, everything will be exactly as it is, with her caregiver, yard, doctors, etc. It’s literallly the house! SHe can remember her life over those 26 years, but not the house. Nothing calms her down, and she can;t tell me anything about this other house she thinks she lives in. Or the 2 older sisters I magically acquired a year ago. She just gets more and more agaitated and tells me she’s a prisoner. The mix of logic and lala as surreal. What to do?

    • Reply February 11, 2019

      DailyCaring

      It sounds like you may need to experiment with different responses and distractions before you find what works well to calm her or help her let go of the idea. It’s great that you’ve tried some different techniques already. Since they didn’t work well, it’s necessary to keep trying other techniques.

      It’s possible that she’s thinking about her home because she feels agitated or anxious and is seeking comfort, so you could also experiment with ways to help her feel more calm and secure.

      Here are some articles with helpful suggestions and ideas:
      — Challenging Alzheimer’s Behaviors Solved with Expert Communication Tips [Video] https://dailycaring.com/video-difficult-alzheimers-behaviors-solved-with-expert-communication-tips/
      — Why Experts Recommend Lying to Someone with Dementia https://dailycaring.com/why-experts-recommend-lying-to-someone-with-dementia/
      — 4 Ways to Respond When Someone with Alzheimer’s Keeps Repeating Questions (in this case, she’s repeating the request for her home) https://dailycaring.com/4-ways-to-respond-when-someone-with-alzheimers-keeps-repeating-questions/
      — The Positive Effect of Therapy Dolls for Dementia https://dailycaring.com/the-positive-effect-of-therapy-dolls-for-dementia/
      — 10 Affordable Products for People with Dementia That Increase Comfort and Calm https://dailycaring.com/10-affordable-products-for-people-with-dementia-that-increase-comfort-and-calm/

    • Reply April 23, 2019

      Glenn From Iowa

      Ben, I had to check the name to make sure this wasn’t a post my sister had written about my mom. 80% of it sounds exactly like my mom. Remember that she lives in a different reality than you do. If she can’t tell you anything about the house, can you share stories with her about how she picked out this house, memories you have of the house, etc.? If she can’t tell you details of the other house, how does the house make her feel, or why does she like this other house? Who is at the other house? Also the house she is remembering may be a childhood house in a different state. My mother mistakes her two sisters for her children, but she can’t remember the third one’s name (herself). Her sisters live in the state she grew up in (1000 miles away), but she asks where they are as if they should be in the house with her. I often have to remind her what city and state she’s in. Find something she likes to talk about – her mom, dad, siblings, childhood, accomplishments, etc. and redirect the conversation that way. Remind her of family relationships, if necessary, as if it’s the first time she’s ever heard about it. Reassure her that you love her and only want the best for her. Of course you aren’t keeping her prisoner, but she feels she has no control over where she lives. Ask her open-ended questions about what she wants, and to the extent you can, reassure her that she belongs at this house and that she’s here because it’s the best place for her (she owns it, has family that care for her, etc.).

      • Reply April 24, 2019

        DailyCaring

        Love these excellent ideas! Thanks for sharing!

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