It’s not uncommon for people with Alzheimer’s disease to express a desire to go “home.” It can be difficult to understand whether “home” to them is a beloved childhood house, a time from their past life, or a place among the people they used to know. It’s unlikely that your loved one can ever return to this place, but that doesn’t mean caregivers can’t help them feel more comfortable. Here are 10 things you can do when your loved one says they’d like to go home.
10. Let Them Know You’re Listening
Let your loved one know that you understand what they’re saying and that you empathize with how they’re feeling. Speak to them in a calm tone, which they may pick up on. It may even lead to them calming down as well.
9. Validate Their Feelings
Agree with what your loved one tells you so they know that their feelings are acknowledged and important. This might include you telling them that, “Yes, we can go home,” or praising their ideas and suggesting, “Maybe we could try that sometime.”
8. Distract With Another Fun Activity
After validating what they have to say, move seamlessly onto something else in order to redirect their attention and try to distract them with another activity. For instance, you might say, “We’ll go home, but let’s first clean up this room,” or “Let’s go for a walk.” A fun activity can keep them occupied and not thinking about home.
7. Reassure Them
In a relaxed tone, let your loved one know that everything will be OK, and sit with them for a while. If they like physical contact, give them a hug, hold their hand, or gently brush their arm. Because your loved one is really longing for comfort, this can help soothe any anxiety they may be experiencing.
6. Go Along With Their Logic
Avoid trying to use reason with your loved one, as this will likely make them more agitated. Because of the nature of Alzheimer’s, they will struggle to process what you’re trying to explain, and instead will only see you as getting in their way. Go along with their logic as best you can.
5. Try a Comfort Object
Sometimes loved ones may find comfort in objects, something that has a bit of home in it. It could be something they can cuddle with, like a favorite blanket or a stuffed animal. Have these comfort objects nearby and see if they can serve as a source of relief.
4. Look at a Photo Album
A photo album can also be useful, and may help instill a sense of recognition. While looking at the photos, maybe you can ask your loved one to tell you more about their home. Even if they have trouble recognizing the photos, the pictures can serve as a distraction, and may still help your loved one cope.
3. Reduce Outside Distractions
Distractions like noise, commotion, or a TV might contribute to overstimulating a person with Alzheimer’s, causing them to seek the comfort of home. Take your loved one out of the noisy environment, and take them to an area that is more calm and peaceful.
2. Allow Them to Pack
A person with Alzheimer’s who wants to go home might insist on packing a bag. Allow them to do this. You can help them pack, and then later set their bag aside while you distract them with another activity. The act of packing and preparing to go may help calm their minds.
1. See If They Can Nap
People with Alzheimer’s may often face their own difficulties with sleeping and sleep patterns. But sometimes, a nap may be a helpful way of dealing with restless behavior. If your loved one goes through episodes at a particular time of day (like when the sun goes down), see if you can get them to take a nap before they begin acting restless.
Above all else, it’s imperative never to tell a loved one with Alzheimer’s that they can’t go home — it will generally make things worse instead of making things better. Aim to instill a sense of comfort around them and offer plenty of sympathy. It’s never an easy situation to deal with, but there are ways to bring your loved one a measure of peace and happiness.
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