We enjoy visiting Momma. She has advanced Alzheimer’s and lives in a skilled nursing community. When she sees her family, her first words are “GET ME OUTTA HERE!” Her next words are usually, “I want to go home”. That sentence will be followed by, “Can I go with you wherever you are going?”
Does any of this sound familiar?
I can see you shaking your head in agreement. I am very sure the most commonly repeated phrase in the life of someone with dementia is “I want to go home.” I will often respond to that statement with, “Okay, where is home?” Now, if I ask my momma that question, she will very likely say, “Hell if I know.” (As of late, she enjoys using colorful language!).
If Momma does not know where home is, to what, then, is she referring when she says she wants to go there. Ahh, Little Chickadee, she could be referring to a few things.
1. She is very likely referring to the home she grew up in. Her memories are lost in the reverse order in which she gained them, and that means she thinks about her mother and daddy quite a bit. Her desire to “go home” is often tied to those thoughts of mother and daddy.2. Depending upon how advanced dementia might be, and depending upon what kind of day Momma is having, she might be referring to the home she lived in while her children were growing up. When she looks at her kids of today (53, 57, and 61 years old), she is sometimes surprised to realize her kids are that old. Her mind is back in the 1970’s when she was actively involved in raising three daughters. Thus, her desire to go home may be related to that period of time.
3. Sometimes, the desire to “go home” can just mean she needs a change from what is going on at that very moment. Often a walk around the community, a hand massage, some music, a card game, watching a funny YouTube video (this video will make ANYONE smile – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc), or talking “junk” will change the entire situation in a matter of moments. The need to go home is now replaced with other thoughts.
So don’t assume you know what your loved one means when they express the desire to leave. I”ll bet it is NOT what you think it is!
Carol Howell is a Certified Dementia Specialist and Endorsed Life Coach with an emphasis on Creative Music Experiences. After her husband’s closed-head injury in 1996 and her mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2006, Carol began her study of the brain and the various forms of dementia that exist. Through her not-for profit company, Senior Life Journeys, she is actively involved in the lives of individuals who are caregiving for a loved-one with dementia as she helps them develop caregiving techniques. Carol’s latest book, Let’s Talk Dementia-A Caregiver’s Guide, is an Amazon #1 Best Seller, and it is an easy to read guide for caregivers of individuals with dementia. She also wrote the best seller If My Body Is A Temple, Why Am I Eating Doughnuts? It tells of the amazing miracle that caused her to lose 100 pounds. You can follow her blog—Something to Ponder—at www.seniorlifejourneys.com.