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I Want to Go Home

Friday October 22, 2021

living room decorated in tans and blues with red words "I Want to Go Home"

When I think of home, I think of the house I currently own with my husband. It’s where we live with our 2 children and our dogs. I also think of our first home, where we lived for 16 years. Home is also the place I grew up with my parents and my brothers.

But home can be more than just a physical place. It’s a feeling of safety, love, and comfort.

People with dementia often say, “I want to go home.” They may even say it while sitting in their own living room at home.

If you have ever heard this, it may drive you crazy. “You want to go home? You’re already home!”

A request for home is more about the feelings than the physical place. Your loved one is looking for comfort and reassurance. Trying to get your loved one to use logic in this situation will just lead to more frustration and negative emotions.

Let’s try to unravel this often-frustrating request of, “I want to go home.”

What’s the cause?

  • Are they confused? Maybe their brain is living in 1960, and they are looking for the home they lived in 60 years ago.
  • Are they hurting? Maybe they have a urinary tract infection or a headache. Maybe their pants are too tight. This may be their way of communicating that they are in pain.
  • Do they have an unmet need? Maybe they are hungry or need to go to the bathroom. They could be cold.
  • Are they bored?
  • Are they scared?
  • Is it happening at the same time each day? Pay attention to these trends and consider what else is happening right before or around that time.

If you can figure out the cause, it’s easier to address the underlying need. Because a request to go home is often more about confusion/discomfort/anxiety/boredom than it is about the physical space you are in.

How do you respond?

  • DO NOT contradict! DO NOT say “You are at home.” It does no good to say this. It will make no sense to your loved one. Contradicting or trying to use logic will end with the two of you in an argument.
  • Agree, reassure, and comfort. Reassure physically by holding their hand. Reassure verbally with loving words: “Dad, I love you, and I am so glad you are here with me right now.” Approach in a calm manner.
  • Validate and redirect. Tell Mom: “I will take you home later. While you are here, can you help me set the table for dinner?” Sometimes all you need is a change of subject. Say: “We can go home soon, but let’s eat lunch first.” Or “I can take you home, but let’s go get ourselves pulled together first.” Then, go fold laundry or water the plants – any task they like to do to distract.
  • Be calm and creative. If you get frustrated, things will go downhill. Take a breath and try again. The first tactic may not work. Give yourself a moment to think of a new strategy and try something else.

Written by Sheri Wammack, LBSW