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


33 Comments

  • Reply June 23, 2019

    Barbara

    I’m a carer in a residential home and I find that when residents ask for home or family it can help to encourage them to talk about either provided you don’t get too specific so as to avoid upset about forgotten detail while still allowing them to reminisce . ‘I think you sound more like your father than your mother?’ ‘My brother always watched out for me too.’ ‘What a big family you have.’ ‘I love the dresses in this photo.’ ‘That boy in the front row [in a photo] has a twinkle in his eye.’ ‘Those children look as though they love the seaside.’

    • Reply June 24, 2019

      DailyCaring

      That’s wonderful advice! Such a lovely way to help someone recall pleasant memories without any stress or pressure 💜

  • Reply March 7, 2019

    Pamela Friedman

    I am a Registered znurse, whose Mother was placed in a nursing home against her will, a consequence of other’s Financial Agenda. – Very Sad. – – Our Mother Continnuously states “I Want To Go Home. – Where Is My Mother, Is My Brother Coming Over, Did The Cat Get Fed”. – – My responses Are Always POSITIVE – REASSURING: “You Are Going Home Tomorrow,Your Mother Is Sleeping Now, I Fed The Cat Earlier, Your Brother Will Be Here Soon”. – There are Triggers that can Cause Agitation – Anxiety. – Losing the Ability To Communicate makes them Frustrated – “UNMET NEEDS” Is a Major Source of Confusion – Stress – Our Mother Responds to Affection …Love.. KIndness… – – Comfort and Physical Contact Are VITAL AND NECESSARY, UNLESS Your Loved One is Uncomfortable with it. – – Allowing them to Make CHOICES, ie, Would you like a back rub, glass of juice, listen to music, put your sweater on, Provides some CONTROL for them. – – – I Never Lied To Our Mother, Yet when consulting with a counselor, the remark was “I Hope When I Get Older-Memory Loss, Someone Lies To Me. – – I am still trying to Reverse the Unjust Status Quo” for our Mother. Maybe I can Bring Her Back Home? – – I hope this information was helpful to anyone whose family – friend Suffers from this debilitating disorder!! – All The Best Pamela 🙂

    • Reply April 3, 2019

      DailyCaring

      Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like you’re providing wonderful care and support to your mother.

  • Reply February 23, 2019

    Anonymous

    What do I say to my mom when she says “I want to go home” and she LITERALLY means HER house that she still owns ?

    • Reply March 21, 2019

      DailyCaring

      Perhaps it would help to ask her open ended questions about her house, what she would do when she gets there, etc. to get her to open up and express how she’s feeling.

      Depending on her stage of dementia, this may also give you opportunities to distract her by turning to other pleasant conversation topics and engaging her in an activity that she enjoys. You could also let her gather her things to “go home” and find opportunities to distract her during that process.

      This article has additional suggestions that may be helpful — 3 Ways to Respond When Someone with Alzheimer’s Says I Want to Go Home https://dailycaring.com/3-ways-to-respond-when-someone-with-alzheimers-says-i-want-to-go-home/

  • Reply January 11, 2019

    Anonymous

    Maybe some people who say they want to go home mean the things in the article but my experience with this phrase is that the person is really wanting to die and be at peace. Home is where everyone has come from, whether they believe in heaven or being pure positive energy.

    • Reply January 13, 2019

      DailyCaring

      That’s definitely another possibility! Thank you for sharing!

      • Reply January 24, 2019

        Diane Boysen

        What about those who ask for their Mother repeatedly. I try to tell them “she’ll be here soon” or if asked “where did my Mother go” I tell them she had to go to the store and she’ll be back. I’m not going to tell them their Mother has long passed. How do you redirect when they keep looking for her or asking for her or calling out for her?

        • Reply February 1, 2019

          DailyCaring

          In many ways, this is similar to “I want to go home.” It’s possible that they’re looking for that feeling of comfort and security. Your responses are great because you’re not upsetting them with facts they won’t be able to process. You’re going along with their reality.

          We’ve got suggestions in this article for how to respond to someone asking to go home and redirect to other activities. Many of the suggestions can be adapted to situations where someone is asking for their mother or they can help you think creatively to find responses that might work — https://dailycaring.com/3-ways-to-respond-when-someone-with-alzheimers-says-i-want-to-go-home/

  • Reply September 19, 2018

    Anonymous

    I wish I had know about this site before my Mom passed. So much useful information here. I will be passing this site on to others. Thank you

    • Reply September 20, 2018

      DailyCaring

      I’m so sorry for your loss 💔 I’m glad our articles are helpful. Thank you so much for sharing with others.

  • Reply July 21, 2018

    Dana

    My mom has dementia; and, my siblings and I are exploring long-term care options for her, as we do not feel it is safe for her to continue living in her condo with my brother who has special needs. She often talks about “going up the mountain” or asks if she has to go up the moutain. Has anyone’s loved one with dementia verbalized that? I’ve tried to ask mom where the mountain is or what she means; but, she just responds, “You know.” Thoughts anyone?

  • Reply April 23, 2018

    Zulma Albino

    I just moved, 6 months ago from Puerto Rico, to Virginia, with my father, 83, and he says that all the time. But he says that his home is just around the corner. If he gets out of the house he just wants to go look for his house. I don’t know what else to do. Nothing is working.😔

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