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When Dementia Patients Want To Go Home


It’s quite common for a dementia elderly patient to voice a desire to go home. When they frequently hear this question, caregivers at the assisted living facilities and nursing homes often get troubled on how to handle it.

What Dementia Patients Mean By Saying That They Want To Go Home

When dementia parents say that they want to go home, it could mean a lot of things.  Some of the reasons behind this desire include feelings of anxiety, depression, or home-sickness.

Based on the fact that dementia affects short-term memory, the seniors with dementia may be reflecting on long term memories of the places and times that were once calming and secure. Interestingly, your loved one may still want to go “home,” even if he’s already in his own home. It’s not that he has gone out of mind; he’s only thinking of his childhood home that ceased to exist many decades ago.

It’s also important to remember that “home” could be symbolic, representing the longing for something familiar to your loved one. For instance, the senior could have been used to going for walks before he was taken to the hospital or assisted living facility. He may, therefore, have that desire to do the same. It’s quite unfortunate that memory loss with dementia patients no longer allows them to perceive familiar things. The person may only subconsciously make the connection between “home” with a sense of belonging and familiarity.

Also, your loved one may want to go home, not because it’s his usual residence, but it’s because that’s where his domestic affection is centered. This is the notion that’s mostly expressed by most seniors with dementia.  They want to be in a place where their comfort is nurtured with the loving and shared intimacy being felt in family life.

Why Would Seniors With Dementia Want To Go Home?

Often, the mid and late stages of dementia exhibit challenging behaviors in our elderly loved ones. The fear, anger, sadness, confusion, and paranoia that dementia patients experience can result in violent and aggressive actions.

Learn more about the reasons that may make the elderly with dementia express their desire to go home.

Communication Difficulties

This is one of the most challenging aspects experienced by caregivers at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The sad thing is that it’s not only frustrating for dementia patients but also their loved ones.

Although it’s difficult to understand why dementia patients will resolve to leave the nursing home after communication breakdown with the caregivers, this is often attributed to the disease itself and its adverse impacts on the brain.

One of the aspects of communication breakdown that may make dementia patients want to go home is heated arguments. This always leads to aggression.

The worst hated word by dementia patients is “no.” So, to effectively stop this behavior, get rid of the word “no” when holding conversations with the patient. Besides, it’s unreasonable to keep on forcibly restraining the patient, unless there’s no other choice.

Confusion About Time or Place

Your loved one may keep on saying, “I want to go back home,” or “This isn’t my home.” Dementia patients are always confused, and they may want to leave their own homes and go to their “homes.”

Remember that dementia causes adverse and negative impacts on the patients’ cognitive functioning. This is what causes memory loss and confusion.

Besides, there’s a psychological component that drives dementia patients towards wanting to go home. Often, your loved one is trying to go back to a place where he has more control over his life.

Poor Judgments

Our seniors with dementia often try to table ungrounded accusations. Imagine someone threatening to leave a nursing home just because “someone stole her vacuum cleaner”!

The situation gets worse when you try questioning your loved ones’ ability to manage the circumstances at hand or try to argue. Giving a response that seems to doubt the seniors’ ability to handle their own affair is good enough for them to send the “I’m going home” threat.

How to Respond To Dementia Patient Who Says “I Want To Go Home”

The following suggestions will definitely help the caregivers and attendants at the nursing homes and assisted living facilities to handle the situation of seniors with dementia. However, it’ll be a good idea if you become creative and establish proper responses tailored to your loved one’s history, preferences, and personality.

Comfort and Reassure Your Loved Ones To Validate Their Needs

In most cases, our older adults say, “I wish to go home” to mean that they’re anxious, tense, scared and that they need extra care and comfort.

The best way you can handle the situation is by giving a calm response and in a positive manner. By doing so, you’ll be validating your loved one’s feelings and needs. This will, in turn, make them feel more understood and comforted.

Responding to your older adult with a soothing, relaxed, and calm manner helps them calm down as well. If your loved ones like hugs, give it to them. Others may feel good when given gentle strokes or touches on their shoulder or arm. Others will feel comforted and supported if you sit down with them.

Avoid Logic and Explanations

Regardless of how smart you are, trying to reason with a dementia patient is the most useless thing you can do. Reasoning and explanations will only make them more upset, agitated, and insistent.

Don’t explain to them that they’re in their own houses. Such information will definitely prove hard to process, and they’ll feel as if you aren’t listening to them. They may even think that you aren’t caring and you are stopping them from getting something essential to them.

Validate and Distract

Although it may not work with the first time, redirecting and distracting is one of the most effective techniques to care for people with dementia. You’ll need to keep on practicing to improve the skill.

You first need to agree and validate what your loved one is saying. For instance, saying, “That’s a good idea” may calm the whole situation.

After validating their opinion, redirect and distract their attention. The redirection should lead them into more fun activities that will make them forget all about wanting to go home.

Bottom Line

The best thing you can do to help your loved one with dementia is by understanding them first. Love them and try all you can to show them care and comfort. By doing so, you’ll be able to comfort them and give proper responses any time their mind turns to want to go home.

However, it’s important to note that not all these techniques will work for you for the first time. Even if it works now, it may not work next time. Try all you can to stay calm, patient, creative, and flexible. The skill of dealing with dementia patients will definitely become easier with practice.

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2 thoughts on “When Dementia Patients Want To Go Home”

  1. Thank you so much. I found this very helpful as my husband is going through this awful period of wanting to go home and particularly feeling very afraid. I’m uncertain how to handle the “ fear” aspect of the disease. I’m as afraid as he is.
    Thank you jennie x

  2. My Wife of 70 year has dementia. Moods can change, on and off. I find that going along with having a sensible chat can help. Discuss things she shared with her first family, and her own family afresh marriage. Confusion must be recognised and trying to get around it sometimes may be difficult. Recognition of family members photos and other things may sometimes help them, for a short time. Getting out for a drive, walk, meals, and other like things can bring about a relief for the patient. Confusion comes up if family members, medical or aged care staff have not explained to the patient, what is taking place. Shortage memory to the patient may be a problem, but a simple talk before the events take place, can help. Food, drinks of coffee,tea etc can bring about a calm happening for all. Prayer does work miracles. Silent prayers seem to be a large time spent by many patients. Fit in with them, where possible. No one is an expert, because we are all beginners. Always spend time with patients, and divert their attention towards those things, like T V OR MUSIC, which can assist patients to feel comforted. Try Country Music, etc, as hearing things they once loved can help them ,we listen to you tube in Irish Country Music. Aged People have spent many hours listening to such entertainments. They can again enjoy them today. Ken Rafter, a raw Starter, keeping with it. God bless all Sick people, and grant them help. Many thanks for your article which brings out a lot of what can assist. Congratulation on a job well done.

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