When Someone With Dementia Says, “I Want to Go Home”
By Paula Spencer, Caring.com senior editor
One of the hardest things to hear someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia say is, “I want to go home.”
I used to dread the moment near the end of a visit with my Gram (who had Alzheimer’s) when she’d perk up from a semi-stupor in which she no longer recognized me: “Where’s my purse? Have we paid yet? Let’s go home.”
Briefly, she sounded almost like her jolly old self.
No matter how long I was there, or what we did, it ended like a perpetual restaurant outing. Except of course that she lived at this “restaurant.”
I’ve since learned that “I want to go home” isn’t usually meant literally by someone with moderate or late-stage Alzheimer’s, nor should it be taken that way. Some things I’ve learned:
- Don’t argue, “But you are home!” For one thing, the “home” being spoken of may not be the same place you’re thinking of. When my father refers to “going home pretty soon,” for example, we’ve learned that he doesn’t mean the house where he lives now or the town where he lived for 40+ years. He’s referring to far-away Upper Michigan, his birthplace, where he hasn’t lived since college. His long-term memory and emotions have conspired to have made that place the representation of a feeling of deep security.
Arguing with someone with dementia, as you already know, is counterproductive.
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