Fall River Jewish Home

When an Alzheimer’s Loved One Says “I Want to Go Home”

After a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease has moved to a nursing home, one of the toughest things for families to hear is the phrase, “I want to go home.” Guilt-stricken adult children usually know they have made the right decision for safety sake, but the emotional side of the issue can be overwhelming. One thing to remember, however, is those words don’t always mean what we think they do.

Memory impairment makes it harder to interpret what “home” might really mean to your family member. It often means one of these two things:

  •   I’m scared. Why don’t I recognize anyone around me?

Alzheimer’s can undoubtedly make the person living with the disease feel lonely. When they are robbed of their more recent memories even their closest loved ones may look unfamiliar.

  •  “Home” may be a house they lived in long ago.

For someone with memory loss, home may be a place they lived in a long time ago. It may even be their childhood home. What they are probably remembering are happy times they had there. That is what makes it “home.”

Knowing what to say and do when a loved one tells you they want to go home can help you better manage the situation. Here are a few suggestions to try:

  • See if you can figure out if something is wrong.

Ask them how they are feeling. Are they in pain? Are they hungry or thirsty? Do they need to use the bathroom? If their verbal skills are impaired, it may be hard for them to tell you what is wrong. Try asking them questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no.” If that doesn’t work, take them to the bathroom to see if that is what they need or to the kitchen and show them a snack or a drink of water.

  • Gently re-direct their attention.

Trying to convince them that the Alzheimer’s care center is now “home” usually won’t work. Instead, agree with them and use that to move them forward. Try saying something along the lines of, “I know you miss Mr. and Mrs. Next-Door-Neighbor. Maybe next week when we go to the doctor we can stop and see them.” It can help to appease them and calm them down.

Almost every family who moves an elderly loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to a senior living community will encounter this issue sooner or later. We hope these tips help you prepare for what to do when it happens.

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