Seeing your loved ones disoriented and making repeated requests to go home can be frustrating for caregivers. Dementia damages parts of the brain, and causes one to experience the world in a vastly different way than before. The phrase “I want to go home” is more often than not a request for comfort and reassurance amidst rising anxiety. Try these three calming ways to respond to your loved ones with dementia.
Avoid Reasoning and Use Therapeutic Fibbing
Sometimes, reasoning with your loved ones about wanting to go home can backfire. Dementia can affect logical thinking. This can cause them to not be able to process your explanation, whether it is that they are indeed at home, or that they have moved into assisted living a few years ago. This is why experts recommend therapeutic fibbing, which allows you to step into their current reality, and prevent them from feeling more irritated and upset.
It may also not be helpful to reason with them as wanting to go ‘home’ can refer to a time or place in a previous phase of your loved ones’ lives instead. It can also refer to a feeling of warmth and familiarity they wish to return to. Understanding where your loved ones are coming from can be valuable in helping you answer them calmly and knowing what they might need to feel better.
Reassure and Validate their Feelings
The longing to go home may arise out of anxiety in a seemingly foreign environment. Reassure them of their safety, and that they are cared about. You can validate their feelings by holding their hands, or nodding gently when they are talking.
You can reassure them by agreeing with their request. Try saying “That’s a good idea. We’ll go as soon as I finish this up”. This is a great way to respond as you are not directly correcting them, and it creates some time to think of how to redirect their attention.
Redirect and Distract
You can redirect your loved ones’ attention into doing activities they enjoy, which can distract them from their desire to want to go home. For example, while walking together to a window, you can point to the scenery outside. Alternatively, you can offer them their favorite snack or drink, and then casually shift to doing another task that is part of their daily routine. Another way to redirect their attention is to ask them to tell you about their home. This can be an opportunity for them to share fond memories. Some open-ended questions can be “Tell me more about your home” or “What’s your favorite room in the house?” Afterward, guide your loved ones back to a neutral topic to distract them.
Our SHINE® Memory Care program at Rittenhouse Village At Lehigh Valley is nationally recognized by the Alzheimer’s Association®. Our caregivers and nurses have gone through extensive training and are dedicated to providing the highest quality of care to your loved ones. To learn more about our senior living options, contact us today.