If you have a parent in a care facility, you’ve likely heard the plaintive plea “I want to go home.” For families with a loved one suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, this request is often heard on a daily basis. So how do you answer the senior when going home is impossible? And how do you cope if your “refusal to help” turns your parent against you?
When a parent or grandparent is placed in a nursing home or other care facility, their lifestyles change dramatically. No longer are they in control of when or what they eat, or what time they go to sleep. Much of their daily life becomes a monotonous routine with precious few variations. A private person may now be forced to share a small space with a roommate. A senior who is used to making her own decisions may be at the mercy of an unyielding staff with a strict set of rules. Whatever the situation may be, it’s certainly understandable why seniors often wish for home sweet home.
Understanding why the senior feels the way she does is the first step in successfully handling her request to go home. Is there something you can do to make her room more comfortable? Would it be possible to move her to a single-patient room? Could you bring in a few familiar mementos to make the facility seem more like home? While these suggestions may not completely take away the desire to go home, they can certainly help.
For patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, they can get very confused and agitated when told they cannot leave the care facility. The surroundings are unfamiliar, the staff is made up of strangers – even you, their child, may not be recognized. Explanations and reasoning won’t work in this case, but distractions just might. Take your parent to a window or another object of interest. Many care facilities and nursing homes feature aquariums or bird cages, which can be a source of delight. The distraction might only last for a few minutes to an hour, but it’s a start. It may give you a chance to run to the patient’s room to grab a photo album or scrapbook – another excellent distraction.
Talking with your loved one about fond childhood memories is another effective way of turning the conversation away from going home. Reminiscing calms the senior down and puts him at ease. Unfortunately, the issue is far from dropped – it’s just temporarily forgotten. You must arm yourself with understanding and acceptance – especially when the senior becomes upset. Remember, it’s not you that the senior is angry with; it’s the situation and circumstances that are out of his control.
Hearing “I just want to go home,” will never be easy. But with advanced preparation and understanding, you can successfully help the senior feel at home – wherever he is.