By Vince Baglivo, CDP
Memory Care Advocate
One of the most heart-wrenching requests for care staff to hear when caring for a resident living with dementia, is “I want to go home!” and it’s also one of the most challenging to navigate. A common question among staff is, “What do I say to that?” And it’s no wonder because we feel responsible for helping and become frustrated when we struggle to provide comfort and reassurance amidst this desperate plea. Unfortunately, it can be very challenging and may even seem impossible at times. How do you convince someone “You live here” while in a facility? Well, I think the answer is a matter of perspective. To us, “I want to go home!” sounds like a literal request, though for a person with dementia, it can often be a cry for something much deeper than simply getting to their house. In other words, “home” in many situations has an abstract meaning and can represent more of an idea of who they were before the disease. For example “I want to go home” can imply “I want to go back to the way things were,” “I want my life to be normal again,” or “I’m scared and need to be somewhere where I feel safe and secure.” It may also mean “I want control.” A desperate plea to cling to a life that’s unraveling. When considering any of these as possible underlying motivators, it doesn’t take long to realize why a typical response such as “But you are home dear” or “Your room is right down the hall” makes little practical sense and is often ineffective. For most of us, the thought of home implies safety, security, love, happiness, and all things good. It’s no different for them. The home they seek, we can’t always give. However, we can help to create a feeling of home. By offering our time and understanding, we can temporarily restore feelings of safety, security, love, happiness, and all things good. We can help them go “Home” for a little while.