Your loved one with dementia living with you says, “I want to go home!” Now what?

family caregivers Aug 23, 2022

 She can’t live alone anymore  

So, your mom couldn’t live by herself anymore.

You found her medicine bottles under her bedroom pillow, and she couldn’t remember putting them there. She once was a really good cook - and proud of it. But you caught her trying to fix a TV dinner in the oven with the plastic wrapper still on.

A child of the Great Depression, she was careful with money and a planner. But time came where you couldn’t reach her by phone. Scammers kept her landline and cell phone tied up while convincing her to hand over thousands of dollars. And she didn’t want you in her financial affairs.

You decided to take her in to your home. Over her protests, you managed to move her a week ago, a month ago, maybe even a year ago.

Since then, you’ve done everything you can think of to make her feel at home. You brought what furniture and belongings you could that would fit in your space. You changed your routines and those of your family to accommodate her needs.

 

“When am I going home?”

But she keeps asking, “When am I going home?” as she packs her suitcase yet again. Over and over. And each time, you’re repeating, “But mom, you are home.

“Why is she complaining?”, you wonder. “Look at all the changes we’ve made to accommodate her.”  “I’m glad to do it, though. I appreciate all that mom did for us and the sacrifices she made while we were growing up.”

Even so, you can’t ignore the confusion, even the nagging resentment, that you sometimes feel. And the guilt.

Does it frustrate you that despite all your sacrifice, your efforts are not enough? That you’re not enough?

 

A solution – to the rescue

In this post, I give 3 key points and a mindset tip, to getting relief when your loved one says, “I want to go home”.

  1. Don’t take it personally.
  2. Consider that your loved one is seeking their idea of the comfort, safety, and familiarity of “home” as they understand it.
  3. Ask “What do you need at home?” and patiently look for clues that can give you that one win today.

I’ll explain the mindset tip in a moment.

 

What to Do When Someone with Dementia says I Want to Go Home

Did you know that a challenge family caregivers often face is when their loved one with dementia insists “I Want to Go Home”?

I recently found the blog post, “What to Do When Someone with Dementia says, ‘I Want to Go Home’ (The BIG Mistake You’re Making)”, by Krista Mesenbrink, on the “Dementia Success Path” website.

 The website is dedicated to supporting family caregivers of people with dementia. They counsel the caregiver to get “one win today”.

 

Focus on getting one win each day

You have multiple issues on your caregiving plate. Dementia Success Path website recommends that instead of trying to tackle everything, to focus on one difficult behavior at a time.

For 1 week, through your research, your medical professionals, support network and trial and error, strive to learn how to get a win over one difficult behavior. One day at a time. They offer tips and tricks for common problems.

Dementia often manifests behavior that is unpredictable and disruptive. These behaviors sometimes pose a risk to your loved one, others, and even yourself.

A caregiver once described their loved one’s behavior as a “grenade” bound to blow up at any time.

The anticipation of “When will it happen next?” causes far more stress than the behavior itself.

Therefore, the website recommends you focus on getting one win at a time. It’s a practical way to address your love one’s difficult behavior. The benefit: you can make your life more manageable and thereby reduce your stress.

 

What “I want to go home” really means

Krista Mesenbrinkin her blog post, “What to Do When Someone with Dementia says, ‘I Want to Go Home’ (The BIG Mistake You’re Making)” confronts this common challenge.  She gives practical advice on how you can get a win over this behavior when your loved one insists on “going home”.

Krista reveals what “I need to go home” really means to your loved one with dementia.

Your loved one is seeking their idea of the comfort, safety, and familiarity of “home” as they understand it. Rather than taking it personally, consider it a plea. This helps you view it with empathy, from your loved one’s point of view.

Better to ask, “What do you need at home?” and patiently look for clues that can give you that one win today.

Be patient. In dementia, your loved one’s thoughts can scatter like spilled M&Ms and may take a while to reassemble. This frustrates them at least as much as it frustrates you.

This strategy avoids the no-win battle of the wills that “I need to go home” typically ignites. Instead of the talking (shouting?) at each other that leads to nowhere, you gain the opportunity to work with each other.

Such an approach offers you a way to agree with your loved one rather than disagree. They perceive that you are with them and not against them. That you are contributing to – rather than taking away – the sense of comfort, safety, and familiarity they desperately seek.

 

Less stress. More manageability

This strategy, this action plan, can reduce your stress levels by showing you how to take a positive action that helps unite you with your loved one rather than driving you apart.

Being a family caregiver can be a tough job. This strategy helps you succeed and gain a greater sense of fulfillment.

Don’t forget that dementia is not static. As your loved one’s memory and independence decline, their fear, frustration, confusion and anger can increase. Plan on revisiting the issue and repeating this strategy.

 

To recap

When your loved one says, “I want to go home”,

  1. Don’t take it personally.
  2. Consider that your loved one is seeking their idea of the comfort, safety, and familiarity of “home” as they understand it.
  3. Ask “What do you need at home?”. Patiently look for clues each day that describe and explain how your loved one understands comfort, safety, and familiarity. Every success qualifies as a win.
  4. Focus on one difficult behavior at a time. Give it at least a week, one day at a time. Seek to get one win – a positive and beneficial outcome – each day.

 

For more information

You can read the entire blog at https://dementiasuccesspath.com/what-to-expect-and-do-with-dementia-blogs.

The website, Dementia Success Path (https://dementiasuccesspath.com/) has a wealth of helpful advice.

Krista Mesenbrink is a certified music therapist specializing in mental health.  Find her at https://dementiasuccesspath.com/ and

https://dementiasuccesspath.com/dementia-caregiving-made-easy

 

Now it’s your turn

Put this strategy (3 key points and a mindset tip) to work on one troublesome behavior this week, one day at a time.

If you found this blog post helpful, please share it.

 

I invite your feedback in the Comments

What do you think about Krista Mesenbrink’s strategy? Do you agree or disagree? When your loved one says, “I want to go home”, what strategy do you use? Please respond in the Comments.

 

Take my brief CareGiver Quiz. 

The CareGiver Quiz for family caregivers can help you figure out where you are on your caregiver journey, how you feel about it, and what you need. It’s one way you can make your caregiver journey easier and fulfilling for both you and your loved one.

https://caregiverquiz.com/

 

 

Until next time,

Forrest Jones MD

caringend.com

[email protected]

https://caregiverquiz.com/ 

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