One extremely common utterance you might hear from a senior with dementia is the phrase, “I want to go home.” As you work your way past your surprise and other feelings, this phrase can get easier to manage.
Offer Comfort and Reassurance.
The very first response needs to be comfort. Often your senior has a feeling of wanting to go home because she’s uncomfortable or upset in some way. Experiencing comfort during a time of anxiety or upset is very reassuring. Comfort looks different for everyone, of course, but a gentle hug works, as does a blanket or whatever else is comforting for your senior.
Don’t Try Telling Her She’s Already at Home.
One common response is to tell your aging family member that she’s already at home. This rarely works out well and can actually increase anxiety and agitation in your senior. She is most likely telling you something completely different when she says the words “I want to go home.” If your response is that she’s already home, she becomes more frustrated because you’re not understanding her.
Avoid Long Explanations or Logic.
By the same token, you want to avoid using long explanations or logic when you’re hearing this phrase from your senior. The statement is not a logical one, so logical explanations and answers are really not going to work. Your senior has a cognitive problem, so that’s going to affect her ability to process the information you’re trying to impart.
Try Using Distractions.
Distractions can be really effective, too. Letting your elderly family member know that you’re going to help her and then getting her involved in another activity can be just what she needs. Some people with dementia become agitated when bored, so having another activity to engage in can solve that problem quite well.
If Nothing Works, Make Sure All Basic Needs Are Met.
There may be some situations in which nothing that you try works at all. In those cases, it might be that your senior has some basic needs that aren’t being met. Is she tired? Does she need to use the bathroom? When did she last eat or drink something? These can all create an uncomfortable situation for your senior.
You might also want to consider hiring elderly care providers. They have experience with these sorts of issues and can help you to learn what to watch for with your aging family member. With their help, you might be able to avoid this situation more often.