In working with people with Dementia/Alzheimer or brain impairment we often hear “I want to go home” or “this is not where I live”, — yet in reality the person has lived in the location they are currently in for a few months, or even years. As caregivers or family trying to provide support, we get confused and try to gently remind them of where they are. Our automatic response is “you are home”. However, in their reality they are not in a familiar setting.
At that moment in time when the statement “I want to go home” is made – where they are is not their home, it is some place different. Instead, try asking “where is home?”. They may tell you about a place they lived when they were 5 years old, a teenager, or just starting out on their own. It could be anywhere they hung their hat over their lifetime. Their current reality will also change daily. “Home” will be whatever their reality is at that moment in time, another place they have lived or traveled to.
As a support person, instead of disagreeing with them and risking escalation of mood or behaviour, ask ‘where is home” or “tell me about your home”. You may find yourself learning about a very different time in your loved one’s life. You may need to engage in some therapeutic lying in order to avoid upsetting your loved one. If they are insistent on “going home”, try saying that they cannot travel now, but you will help make travel arrangements for them to return home later.
Next time you hear “I want to go home” – go on a journey with your loved one. Discover where their thoughts are, and where home is at that moment in time. Enjoy your adventure!