The Right Response to a Dementia Patient’s “I Want to Go Home” Appeal

Hearing the plea “I want to go home” is a frequent occurrence in the lives of dementia caregivers. It can come in different forms, such as “I need to get out of here” or “I’m looking for my mom.” All such requests are a reflection of their changing brain chemistry that causes them to feel uncomfortable and unsure of their surroundings.

No matter how heartbreaking this appeal sounds, you must deal with the question in a way that comforts the affected adult. Sometimes they ask the question even when they’re at home. You cannot use logic in such situations to explain that they’re already home. Instead, help them let go of the idea by providing a comforting response to reduce their anxiety and make them feel relaxed.

Here are responses that you should avoid and some compassionate ways to deal with the “I want to go home” request:

Avoid Contradictions

First off, never contradict their appeal. They may sound illogical, but that’s just the disease talking. Don’t try to reason with them by offering logical explanations like they’ve been at home for years or the home care center is their new home now. That will make them more irritated and upset.

Offer Affirmations

Instead, offer affirmations regarding their request. Make them feel comfortable with a response that answers their questions positively. You can tell them “Ok, we’ll go soon.” or “That’s a great idea. Let me just finish cleaning, and then we’ll go.” This calms them for the moment as you’re not rigidly denying their plea.

Don’t Misunderstand

It is important to make the dementia patient feel heard. Never judge them or react abruptly to any demand. Don’t show irritation on their repeated plea to go home. Your burst out can make them agitated and adversely affect their brain. They may end up feeling that you don’t care about them or you’re not listening.

Figure out Their Reference to ‘Home’

People who have dementia may not always refer to things as they are. For us, going home or to our mom would mean going to a place that brings us comfort. Similarly, for them, requesting to go home may mean they’re feeling uncomfortable because of some other reason.

Maybe they’re hurt, tired, bored, or just hungry/thirsty. Sometimes, they even miss their family, who might’ve not visited for a long time. By asking to go home, they’re just demanding or requesting relief from the discomfort. Recognizing and meeting these needs can make them feel calm and soothed.

Redirect Their Thoughts

Once you accept and acknowledge their request, try to distract them. Divert the conversation to some other things. Talk about how their home looks, which room or place in the house is their favorite, etc.

Keep a photo album handy as seeing pictures help them remember those moments and thus relieve anxiety. You can also take them to a nearby window to show birds outside or offer something to eat in the kitchen as a distraction mechanism. Then casually drift to some other daily activity of their routine.

Try Engaging Sense Organs

Using sense organs is an excellent way to create a positive environment around the person. Use aromatherapy with popular scents, such as lavender, lemon, jasmine, etc., to enhance the sense of smell.

Similarly, play soothing music for sound and show, heartwarming pictures or views outside the window to boost the sense of sight. For the sense of touch, show support through physical contact, such as holding hands. Other ways to offer comfort include offering a soothing blanket or stuffed animal or letting them play with a pet.

Note the Pattern

There can be a pattern when your loved one asks the same question, “I want to go home,” throughout the day. Try to recognize it by keeping a log every time they say it and figure out a common denominator among those times. This way, you can channel their thoughts by organizing an exciting activity just before they raise the request.

Final Words

Asking to go home is more like a comfort request than actually wanting to go somewhere. Alzheimer’s or dementia-affected people have a brain disorder that makes them see the world differently. Sometimes they hallucinate and even get confused, causing them to panic. This makes them request the nearest person to take them home, which is a familiar and comfortable place.

Helping them cope in such a situation can be challenging as they throw all sorts of tantrums. The most important thing for any caregiver is to stay calm in that moment and offer supporting responses. However, if the situation prolongs, it is recommended to move them to a memory care center.

At Lenity Management Community, we ensure that your loved one is constantly supported and given a positive surrounding for all-round comfort. Our well-trained staff works around the clock to offer comfort in every conversation and keep them safe at all times.


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