I want to go home

Whether it’s relatives, friends or nursing staff, anyone who is caring for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s or dementia has heard or will inevitably hear the patients say, “I want to go home!”

Patients may even pack their bags, piling them at the front door, waiting to leave. This may happen even though they are still living in their own residence of thirty-some years.

My father would constantly ask me, “Why can’t I go home? My mother is going to be awfully worried about me.” This is a perfect example of a need for redirection. This will be a caregiver’s best tool of defense. For example: I would assure my dad that everything was going to be okay. “I just talked to your mother an hour ago. She knows that you’ll be spending the night here so why don’t you play some cards until dinner is ready?”

Just go with the flow. Obviously, they’re already confused. Try to avoid making matters any worse.

Hearing the statement, “I want to go home” should be taken as a potential forewarning that wandering may be in the near future. Nonchalantly pay close attention to your loved one until you feel confident that he or she has moved on to fresh and pleasant thoughts.

I’m directing this advice to everyone who is involved in the care of the memory-impaired. This includes nursing home employees, family members, etc. This is a situation where patients can easily become lost and possibly seriously hurt.

Some may find this a bit comical, but there is a nursing home in Germany which built an exact replica of a bus stop in front of their facility. Their average patients suffers from having no short-term memory. But the long-term memory may still recall the colors of the bus sign and that waiting there means they’re soon going home.

The staff then gently approaches the confused patients, informing them that the bus won’t be along until later in the day and then invites them inside for a cup of coffee while waiting. Usually, by the time the cup’s empty, the patients have completely forgotten what they were waiting for. If this keeps them from running off and getting hurt, I would call their well-intended ruse a success.

The fact that patients are unable to recognize their own surroundings makes things extremely frightening for them. They will wish they were back in the comfort of their own home, even if they already are.

Once again, casual redirection of an Alzheimer patients thoughts is something every caregiver needs to master.