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Why do Alzheimer's patients want to go home?

Asking to go home is a sign of anxiety, depression or simply feeling insecure. Going home stands for a place (in time and space), where the individual feels safe, loved, and happy. One might say he wants to go home, even though he is already in his home. It is not about a physical location.

Let me tell you a sweet story. It will show that a person suffering from Alzheimer’s, who is not in the here and now, unlike her husband.

An older woman asked her “husband” where had been her husband. She did not recognize him due to his old age and grey hair. Contrary, she remembered him in the past as a young man with blond hair.

Her husband figured out that she might not be in the same time and place like he is. So he told her politely, “He is out getting you a cake”.

This satisfied her and she replied: “I hope he asks for the chocolate cake”

Just a few minutes later she forgot that she even asked.

However, arguing with his wife that he is her husband would only make her afraid.

Probably she would not believe him anyway.

Table of Content
How to deal with an Alzheimer’s patient who wants to go home
Why Alzheimer's patients want to go home
List of Resources
About the Author

How to deal with an Alzheimer’s patient who wants to go home

Whenever your beloved person voices the desire to go home you can react following five steps, including (1) staying in the same room, (2) replying politely and showing respect, (3) waiting for a reply, (4) grabbing their attention with a new topic, and (5) being patient.

This procedure derives from my article “How to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s”.

Two approaches can be used.

Both of them have one thing in common. Creating an atmosphere of comfort and safety and not

arguing against the individual. Instead, finding solutions to help.

The next time your beloved one voices the desire to go home you can react as follows.

How to deal with an Alzheimer’s patient who wants to go home
5 Tips how to interact
1. Staying in the same room. Do not leave the room because it can create additional tension and feelings of insecurity for the patient. Remember the mindset is to create an atmosphere of comfort.
2. Replying politely and showing respect. It is key to take the wish seriously. You can do so by replying with comforting words like “Yes, I understand you” or “I hear you”. Try to imagine how it must feel to be in the wrong time and place. It certainly would make you feel anxious, too.
3. Waiting for a reply. Once you replied politely, wait for a reply. It is key to show your sympathies. In case one does not reply or voices the same desire again, you could reply: “Ok, how about we leave right away” or “How about you lead me the way”.
4. Grabbing their attention with a new topic. As soon as possible try to change the topic. Talk about something that could grab their attention or ask them an open question. This way they might forget they want to go home. And you can bring your beloved one back to their room.
5. Being patient. The entire time, from start to finish, be patient with the individual. Taking care of a person with Alzheimer’s is demanding. However, it is key to make the other person feel at ease and valued.

Why Alzheimer's patients want to go home

As mentioned in my answer paragraph, the feeling of being anxious, insecure, and simply being sad can trigger the behavior.

Home can stand for everything. For a place in childhood, where everything was safe and calm.

To a time, in which the person feels most at home. I could imagine a patient reminiscing about the first months of his marriage.

Besides space and time, it also can be representative of a feeling.

Remember this

From psychoanalysis, we know that most people associate subconsciously the word “home” with the feeling of belonging.

Then home can be friends from school or colleagues from work.

Let me give you another sweet example.

This time the wife is hallucinating and would say, “Look, here comes my colleague from work”.

The husband would just smile and reply, “Oh, how wonderful, is it, Tina, from the architecture studio?”.

His wife happily agrees and the husband makes a can of tea. Meanwhile, hearing his wife laughing and talking to herself.

After three minutes he is ready to serve it.

Taking two colorful cups, he would go into the living room and ask: “So does your colleague want to drink a cup of tea?”.

And she would reply: “Yes, with a spoon of sweet sugar.”

As you can see, even a hallucinated colleague can create a sense of belonging, too.

I find it particularly interesting, how a brain can create entire dialogues and hallucinations.

So here you have it. An entire procedure on how to deal with a common Alzheimer’s situation.

List of Resources

Patric Pförtner

B. Sc. Psychology

Hi, my name is Patric Pfoertner and I graduated 2020 from the NBU. Currently, I work and study in Germany. My specialisations are Cognitive Psychology paired with a good slack of Clinical Psychology. Just this year I started publishing my research in the CBB Journal. Feel free to read about it at ResearchGate. Otherwise, click the other button to read my full CV.

About Author ResearchGate

P.S.: I am available for psychological consultation, too.