7 Caregiver Responses to "I Want to Go Home"

Carol Bradley Bursack, Minding Our Elders | Mar 30th 2015 Feb 15th 2017

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One of the most heartbreaking things caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s hear is “I want to go home.” The request is often repeated many times a day, even though the person is, to our way of thinking, home. Anyone who has tried saying, “But you are home!” will know that logic doesn’t work. What can a caregiver do?

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It's about comfort

Remember that this request has nothing to do with the home the person just left. It may refer to a childhood home or even just a feeling of safety and comfort. Therefore, exuding warmth and love is vital while you try to distract and redirect.

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Communicate love with body language

Use your best communication skills. Try to obtain eye contact if the person doesn’t resist, put a smile on your face, use a gentle touch on the arm or hand and use a gentle tone of voice. Show the person love through body language. 

 

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Avoid long explanations

A long, logical recital of where they now live and why he or she lives there is not only useless, but will likely draw a negative response. Limit words and maximize gentle body language and voice tone. 

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Distract and redirect

Distracting and redirecting only works if you have activities in mind that the person enjoys. Smile at the words “I want to go home,” put your arm around his or her shoulders and say, “Let’s have a snack,” or “Let’s go see what’s blooming in the garden.”

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Carry through

Gently guide the person to another room or outdoors if the situation makes this realistic. Put a DVD or CD in a player if that works better. Keep a list of activities in mind that the person finds pleasurable. 

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Be creative

Some people go so far as to take the person for a ride around the block and then arrive “home.” Think of available options but understand that nothing will work for very long. Bear in mind that that sometimes nothing may work. 

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It's not your fault

Remember that the need being expressed by your loved one is not a reflection of your caregiving. It’s a phase of the disease that must be weathered. Do your best to distract and redirect but don’t blame yourself when your best efforts don’t help.

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The takeaway

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you will continue to hear this plaintive cry. Whether your loved one is at home or in a care facility, this is going to be a draining time. You’ll need breaks to save your physical and emotional strength for the long-term.