Home: A Feeling More Than a Place (Or why your loved one with dementia always says the want to “go home”) By Mandy Shoemaker
If you have ever spent any time around someone living with dementia, it’s likely that you heard them mention that they are going home. Even if they are in the home they have lived in for the last 10 years, they may be in a constant state of packing to go home. This is because when someone with dementia talks about “home” it is more of a feeling than an actual place.
Those living with dementia often lose track of place and time. They may move in and out of their childhood, teenage years, and younger adult years. Although they may be surrounded by familiar faces, when they say they want to go home, they likely mean the home of their childhood or the home where they raised children. Imagine being disoriented most of the time, and not sure where you are or where you fit in. “Going home” feels like the safest thing you could possibly do.
At Prairie Elder Care, we don’t tell our residents the “are home.” We work to find something for them to do that is familiar and may give the same feeling of home, such as baking, singing songs, or playing a game. Giving people something to do that is purposeful also may give them a similar feeling. Everyone likes how it feels to be needed, or to accomplish something, so putting people to work may also give them that feeling of satisfaction and belonging that they are seeking.
If your loved one is in an Alzheimer’s or Memory Care facility and they keep telling you they want to go home, don’t assume it is because they aren’t getting good care. Instead, seek substitutes for that feeling of home that will make them feel better in the moment. One thing we know about Alzheimer’s and Dementia is that recent memories may fade quickly, but the feelings they invoke remain much longer and have a cumulative impact on overall quality of life.