Being a caregiver to someone with dementia can be extremely rewarding, yet very stressful and frustrating at the same time. Occasionally questions or comments arise that require education and insight in order to answer properly. One such comment that is fairly typical to hear at some point in the disease progression is a person expressing their wishes to leave their current surroundings and return to somewhere they feel they belong. This can be difficult for a caregiver who isn't sure how to handle a comment such as, "I want to go home." A natural, immediate response by the caregiver might be to say, "You are home. You are in your home right now." Unfortunately a response such as this may only irritate and frustrate the individual living with dementia. Signs that this type of answer isn't helpful, may result in the patient or loved one becoming agitated. Without much warning this agitation can elevate quite quickly and the more you may try to explain or repeat your rational answer the more frustrating things can become for all involved. So what is the appropriate answer? Where is home to them?
A helpful tip to remember when dealing with someone who has dementia is to keep in mind that they have a different view of reality and things are best handled when you can join them in the time frame that they are living in. Do your best to be in the moment with them. The individual may be reverting back to there age of 20-30. Home may be any number of places depending on where their mind is. At the time of their comment they may be thinking of their very first home, owned with their spouse or where they raised their children. They may also be reverting farther back to when they were a child or teenager. At this point their home was likely where they grew up. So how should you best respond as their caregiver?
Ask a question about there home. Questions like - Tell me more about your home? What did you do at your home?
Redirect to do another activity. Ask if they would like to join in an activity, have something to eat, etc.
Have a picture book on hand of pictures from a past house or houses that they've lived in and can look at or reminisce about.
Never try to reason or correct the individual. This will typically just make them more agitated.
Always try to go back to whatever time frame the individual may seem to be in. Whether they want to go to work, do chores on the farm, etc. Joining them in their reality as best you can will make things easier for both the caregiver and the individual with dementia. By using non-judgmental questions or responses and getting in their "time frame", interactions and conversations can provide laughs, create memories, and provide a sense of calm & enjoyment.