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Dementia and wanting to “go home”

Karen answers a caregiver’s question.

Question:

We have placed our Mother in a memory care unit because it is unsafe for her to be at home alone. She asks me to take her home every time I visit. I tell her she is there because she has Alzheimer's disease and may not go back home. She asks over and over and every time I visit. I end up leaving or cutting short my visit because I am frustrated. How can I deal with this without upsetting her and frustrating myself every time I visit?

Answer:

Stop telling her why she is there -
1. She isn't going to remember the reason
2. She won't admit that there is a problem
3. Telling her that she may not going home is only going to upset her every time you answer her question.

I know a lot of people have a hard time telling what is called "therapeutic fibs" but the most important thing you can do as a caregiver or family member is to try your best to make them feel happy and safe. Instead of telling her she can't go home because she has dementia, tell her she is there because the doctor ordered it and he wants to monitor her health. She may come home when the doctor says that it is OK. This is taking the blame off you, taking the responsibility off of you and preventing or perpetuating the hopeless and angry feelings she may be experiencing.
As the disease progresses, what she refers to as home may not even be the home where she last lived before she was placed in the facility. It may be her childhood home.
Do your best to make her room at the facility feel like home to her. Bring in her favorite pillow, an afghan she crocheted, her wedding picture, pictures of her children when they were young, a scrapbook filled with pictures of happy memories.

While you are there to visit, start conversations about happy times. This may seem like something that would cause her to want to go home but in fact may be just what she needs to bring back the feeling of happiness and contentment.

Make you visit short but make sure to give lots of love and hugs.
Sometimes love is all we really need.

Karen Francis

dementia