February 18, 2016

How to Deal with A Loved One Asking to Go Home


When a dementia patient living in a senior care facility sees you they want to go home.

A reader asks the Alzheimer's Reading Room an important question.


“Just needing to know how some deal with their loved one asking about when they're going home, when they're in a facility.

I can wing pretty much everything else thanks to all the tips I've gotten from the Reading Room. This one seems to stymie me!!”

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Answer provided by Rachel Wonderlin, Dementia by Day

Let me start by stating that this is a common problem, and there are ways to deal with and solve the problem.

The best way to “answer” the question above is to face it directly. I find that family members who avoid the question, or evade it, end up feeling very anxious when visiting their loved ones.

They are afraid of hearing this dreaded question, and for good reason.

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My answer.

For one thing, I never, ever tell residents that they “live here now.” This can be very anxiety-provoking for people with dementia, particularly if they believe that they still live at home.

So, when asked by a resident why they are at our community, and if they live here, I usually say, “You have an apartment to stay here whenever you want. You are just staying with us until your _____ (insert ailing body part here) is healed.”

Or, “You are just staying with us for some extra help right now.” Or, “You are staying with us until it stops raining/snowing/other bad weather.”  Or, “You’re here for your regular doctor’s appointment. This is where the doctor comes to see you.”

Then, when a resident asks if they can go home, or when they are going home, I usually answer, “You’ll be going home in the next couple days.” It helps not to say an exact amount of time. For example, if you said “tomorrow,” that person may, on the off chance, remember that you said “tomorrow.”

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If they ask why they can’t go home right away?

“Your house had a leaky pipe, we are getting it fixed.”

“They are painting your room.”

“We wanted to introduce you to some of the people here, so you could meet some new friends.”

There are any number of answers you can give that will satisfy your loved one.

Bear in mind that you are a trigger for your loved one. When he or she sees you, they get concerned about going home because you remind them of home. Finding the best answer for your loved one’s specific question will benefit you greatly.

Rachael has a Master’s in Gerontology and runs a dementia care community in Pennsylvania.

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