When a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease moves to an assisted living community, one of the toughest things for families to cope with is hearing them say the words, “Please take me home. I want to go home.” Adult children know they have made the right choice for safety reasons, but the guilt those words create can be tough to overcome.
What Someone with Alzheimer’s Means When They Say “I Want to Go Home”
Here is what your loved one might really be saying:
- I don’t recognize anything or anyone around me.
Because Alzheimer’s disease robs people of their memory, it creates confusion. Your loved one may not understand why no one seems familiar and nothing looks like home no matter where they are. They are likely feeling lonely.
- “Home” may not be their most recent house.
When shorter term memories are lost, home may be the place they lived when they were a child or younger adult. They may be remembering happier times when they lived with their parents and siblings.
How to Respond When an Aging Loved One Says “I Want to Go Home”
There are a few suggestions we know other families have found worked with their loved ones:
- Try to determine what they need.
We know this can be difficult to do when their verbal skills are impaired. The problem may be that they are hungry, tired, in pain or need to use the bathroom. Try to ask them yes or no questions to see if you can find out if something is wrong or upsetting to them.
- Try to respond positively.
Arguing with them or telling them the assisted living community is home now probably won’t work. Instead, try acknowledging their request and agreeing to do it “later.” Using a simple phrase like, “I know you miss your garden. Maybe next week when we are at the dentist we can stop there.” It may help placate them for now and they likely won’t remember later.
- Encourage them to talk about it if they are able.
Ask them what they miss and what they liked about home. Getting the conversation going might give you an opportunity to determine what they are missing and see how you can help fix it. It might also provide you with the chance to re-direct the conversation. For example, if they miss their garden or the neighbor’s dog, tell them about a new dog on your street or a problem you are having in your garden.
This issue is one of the most common struggles for families. Almost everyone who moves a loved on to a memory care program encounters it at one time or another. We hope these tips help provide you with a few ideas on how to handle it.