Dementia Care – How to answer questions about going “home”.


Dementia care can throw up some difficult questions that your loved one will ask.  How do you answer the question “I want to go home”?

Due to changes in environment, surroundings and time-shifting it is not uncommon for a dementia care resident to ask to go home.  After having made a very difficult decision to place them into care this can be very distressing.

Here are 5 Tips on how to answer difficult questions

1. Don’t argue as to whether they are already ‘home’

The term “home” can be a wide ranging description to someone with dementia.  It is probable that “home” to that person is much more than the physical place they are staying in.  “Home” could represent memories, security, happiness or it could just as easily be a manifestation that does not exist.

It therefore very important you do not disagree with the person as you cannot define what their version of “home” is.  If they do not believe they are “home”, then they are not.

An alternative is:

Try to find out where home is for them at this moment.  Ask them to describe it and what they remember and feel about “home”.  If you can get an answer to how they feel about it, by encouraging them to talk about it, you may be able to pick up clues as to why they do not feel their current environment is “home” to them.

Be aware though, they could be describing somewhere in the distant past of even somewhere they have seen in film.

2.Reassure them they are safe

If we found ourselves in an unfamiliar place with people we do not recognise, we would probably feel insecure as they do.  It is the insecurity which leads them to desire to go “home”.

An alternative is:

Reassure them with gentle touches and holding hands if is appropriate and verbally reassure them in a soft tone of voice.  The person needs to feel safe and protected.

3.What to avoid saying to somebody with dementia

The language and tone you use to converse with an Alzheimer’s patient is very important.  Badly worded questions or statements can be hurtful, frustrating and even more confusing.

The Alzheimer’s Society has an in-depth guide as to how to avoid distressing a dementia sufferer by choosing the wrong words.

4.Divert the conversation

Keep visual aids on hand such as photos or personal items. Pictures from the past can be a great distraction and will give them the opportunity to reminisce, which should help any anxiety.  Avoid asking questions about the items but make statements which will open them up to telling you about them.

If they have a hobby you could divert the conversation to that or even use favourite music, a walk or food.

5.Try to establish whether they are feeling unhappy

Speak with the care home staff and establish if your loved one talks about going “home” all the time or only in your presence.  Do they seem comfortable and settled otherwise?

Speak with the other residents and the staff to see if you find out if they are happy or have discussed any anxieties with anyone else.

 Keep a log

This can be extremely useful in trying to find out “triggers” and can offer opportunities to avoid them.  It may be certain times a day, meal times or is it noisier than usual?  Is it due to “sundowning”? Look for patterns and discuss them with the care givers.

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