Aging Well

Aging Well

How to respond when mom wants to come home

Posted September 1, 2020 4:42 p.m. EDT
Updated September 1, 2020 6:16 p.m. EDT

Dementia Alliance NC provides tips from experts for caregivers of those with dementia on their YouTube Channel

It was one thing when one could easily drop in on mom, who was living in a memory care community, for a visit or to take her to lunch. It is another situation though, when that is not possible given new restrictions due to coronavirus.

“If she insists on coming home, should I bring her?” one might wonder.

That is a decision certainly for each family to make.

In terms of wanting to go home, I must say I have not worked with a family whose parent or spouse with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia did not say—daily, sometimes hourly—"I want to go home. Take me home. When are we going home?”

This is not to say that there are some situations when you should listen to your loved one. However, this is to say that as one’s cognition and ability to communicate declines, it is extremely common to want to go home. Home, after all, is where they felt comfortable.

Dementia Expert and Educator Melanie Bunn, RN, of Dementia Alliance NC, said, “This is truly a common, but painful, question, bringing forth all the guilt and grief associated with the changes of dementia. Home represents a place where one feels safe and comfortable, a place where life makes sense and is predictable and familiar. For people living with dementia, physically going home might not bring the craved relief. The request to “go home” or “take me with you” might even come from someone already living in the family home."

Bunn recommended using "The 3 Steps of Empathetic Communication" to help the caregiver connect with their loved one and meet their need.

  1. Step 1
    Start with the feelings (It sounds like you don’t want to be here, seems like you really miss home)
  2. Step 2
    Get more information (offer a choice: what do you miss most-the inside or outside, do an “I remember”-I remember how wonderful the kitchen always smelled in the morning)
  3. Step 3
    Move from talking to doing (let’s walk to the kitchen and see what’s there or you were always so great with the laundry, can you help me?). Connecting with the feelings and current experience of the person living with dementia puts you on their side in a way that explaining, using logic or excuses, or using deception doesn’t.

For more information about this and other approaches, checkout Dementia Alliance of North Carolina’s youtube page.

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