773 E. Haverford Road • Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Senior couple talking

Schedule a Visit!

Schedule your visit today and
download our brochure.

Dementia Caregiver Coping: When a Senior Says, "I Just Want to Go Home"

As any devoted caregiver can tell you, coping with the realities of a senior loved one with dementia is fraught with emotional challenges. As a result of your loved one’s dementia – and through no fault of their own – there are times as caregivers when our hearts break, our frustrations mount and we feel a deep sense of guilt.

All of these emotions can quickly come to the fore when your loved one looks at you and says, "I just want to go home."   

Says Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA, “When this occurs, it is important for caregivers to remember that their loved one with dementia is living in a different reality – not the one that you are experiencing. Usually, when they ask to go home, they are not referring to their most recent home, but rather their childhood home where they lived in comfort and safety with their parents.”

“Dementia care authorities also say that you should not always take your senior’s pleas to go home literally. Because of the changes to the brain, loved ones with dementia do not always mean what they say. Their words can often be ‘the dementia talking.’ As a result, their requests can also be expressions of a more profound need for comfort and reassurance.”

What Your Senior’s Words, “I Want to Go Home,” Might Really Mean

According to WHY SOMEONE WITH ALZHEIMER’S SAYS I WANT TO GO HOME: 3 WAYS TO RESPOND“Many experts say that people with dementia are trying to express that they need the feeling of ultimate safety, comfort, and control. That’s what ‘home’ means to them.”

Seniors with dementia may repeatedly ask to go home because they feel:

  • Unsafe or scared
  • Agitated or upset
  • Physically uncomfortable 
  • Unfamiliar with their current surroundings such as a new room, new decor or new people

For others, they say it can mean something totally different, like wanting sleep or needing to go to the bathroom. Therefore, be very attentive to their body language and observe their reactions as you check for any physical discomfort or personal hygiene needs.

Calming Ways for Caregivers to Respond to Their loved One with Dementia

Understanding what your senior loved one with dementia is trying to say when they ask to “go home” is a critical first step. However, there are also tips from dementia care experts that can help you to satisfy their underlying needs.

For example, the article, WHEN SOMEONE WITH ALZHEIMER’S SAYS I WANT TO GO HOME: 3 WAYS TO RESPONDprovides helpful ways to react to this common request. Examples include:

  • Providing reassurance and comfort to validate their needs – Respond in a calm and assuring manner that validates their needs and feelings. This will help them feel understood and supported. Try holding their hand, giving them a hug, telling them you love them, or giving them a stuffed animal to hold. Each senior with dementia will have their own unique way of being comforted.
  •  Avoiding logical explanations and attempts to reason with them – Attempting to reason with a loved one with middle or late stage dementia is doomed to failure. In fact, it will likely serve to make them more frustrated and agitated. They might feel that you are not listening or are preventing them from doing what they want, which will only add to their anxiety.
  • Using the validate, redirect and distract method – This technique, used by dementia care therapy professionals, can be helpful in taking your senior loved one’s focus off of “going home.” First, validate their request by saying something like. “Of course, Mom, we will go home as soon as I take care of a couple of things.” Then redirect their attention to something pleasant such as a beautiful bouquet of flowers, singing birds outside or asking about what they had for lunch that day. Finally, you can distract them from their request to go home with activities that they might enjoy such as listening to musiclooking through an old photo album or reading from your loved one’s favorite book or poem from their earlier days.

Crystal adds, “Above all, try not to feel frustrated or guilty. The fact is you are doing the best you can. Your senior loved one is living with dementia and they no longer have full control over what they say or do. Continue to care for them with compassion and understanding and take good care of yourself as well. Always remember, your life is very important, too!”

We encourage you to contact us with any questions you have on dementia care or to schedule a tour. Also, we invite you to read our timely blog articles on current caregiver and dementia care topics posted on our website.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog Dementia Caregiver Coping: When a Senior Says, "I Just Want to Go Home," we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

 Helping Families Be “Family” Again.

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

 If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. 

For more information, please call Crystal at 484.380.5403 or contact us online. 

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.