Oct 17, 2015

Fragile Mom, Living with Dementia, Wants to Go Home

This email I received from a reader, like many, touched my heart.
We are struggling with my mother in law who suffers with dementia. She is 94 years old. She get very upset and is always asking to go home. Even when she is where she currently lives (she lives with my sister in law).

We are struggling with my mother in law who suffers with dementia
How do you handle this situation? What do you say to keep her calm? Right now she starts crying and asks to be brought home. 
Any information you can give me will help!!

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Joyce, I know how you feel. It happened to me. And, it happens to many who are caring for someone living with dementia.

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I grappled with this issue for years before I finally discovered a solution that worked. A solution that was so effective that my mom finally stopped asking to go home. Don't let me mislead you. It didn't happen all at once. In fact, at first I simply found a way to diffuse her anguish. And then eventually, after a long time, it went away.

How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia

My first suggestion is to sit down next to your mom, or stand next to her. Put you arm around her shoulder, and put your head on her head. This is in the form of a hug.

You will be trying to reassure her.

You might say, "mom we're here now, I am going to take care of you". You can develop your own words. However, only use a few words. Don't explain. For example, don't say, "you are home". Remember the goal is reassurance.

If your mom is not in a great deal of angst you might say, "Okay mom, we will soon". Same scenario with the hug.

If you can get a full blown hug standing up, then do it this way.

Start the hug. Put your hand on your mother's back. Right in the area where her heart would be. Open up your hand, hold her heart. Put your other hand on the back of her head. Hold. Then use your words. "I'm here mom, I am going to take care of you". "I'm here for you mom, I am going to take care of you".

Do this several times each day. You don't have to wait for something bad to happen.

The goal is


Touch and hugging is an important and integral part of caregiving. And there is no better way to reassure than hugging. It shows you care. It raises self esteem. And most importantly, it reduces anxiety. It will reduce the anxiety level of the person afflicted with dementia, and the caregiver. It is a win win situation.

Once this starts working you must add some positive reinforcement. You can try ice cream or potato chips. I did.

Another thing I would do is take my mom out into the world. You can go get ice cream, or a coffee or tea. Or just take a ride in the car if it is day light.

You have to change the paradigm. Meaning the entire situation. Instead of want to go home, act like they are home, and get with it.

Yes, you might have to be patient. Sometimes these solutions work fast, and sometimes it takes a while.

Be kind, be caring, be loving, and be tactile (touch). Ask yourself, how do I feel when someone reassures me in a caring, loving way? Do you feel better?

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).

The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.

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