If you are caring for emotionally distraught loved one who uses the “I want to go home!” phrase over and over; then you have probably felt some frustration with how to respond to that. If your Receiver of Care is in a facility, or another person’s home; then it is understandable why they are saying that phrase repeatedly. However, what if your Receiver of Care is already home? How should you respond? What will calm your loved one down? What are they really saying?
Maybe the following story, about a young Giver of Care, Anna, will provide some light on the subject:
Anna was a sweet 13 year old girl, who was emotionally distraught over some sad family situations. Her grandfather was suffering from Alzheimer’s and her parents were in the middle of a very sad divorce. It was a very lonely and troubling time for Anna. One night, things seemed more than she could bear. ‘”Dad…I want to go home… I want to go home.. I want to go home”, she kept repeating, through her broken sobs.
Her Dad, trying to comfort his daughter, asked Anna to explain what she meant. His heart broke for his daughter, as she answered through her tears, “Back to when everything was okay, when we were traveling, singing, camping, and everything was okay!”
What a profound moment for Anna’s dad. As he was sitting in his home with his upset daughter, he realized HOME is not necessarily a physical place. HOME is a safe place. A time when things were good. Bingo!
The following morning, Anna’s dad was visiting his father, a patient at an Alzheimer’s memory unit . The elderly man began his visit as he often did, repetitively saying, “I want to go home”. Ordinarily that would lead to a ‘logical, and unproductive attempt’ to reason that this is his new home. That morning however, armed with a deeper understanding of home, a heartfelt reply came forward. “Yes, let’s go home Dad.”
They held hands as they walked and talked about fond memories: when his father taught him fishing, when they built a tree house together and even how his father decided to ask his mom for her hand in marriage. It wasn’t long before the elderly gentleman felt peace and he stopped asking to go home. When they returned to his apartment within the memory unit he asked, “Is this where I live? It sure seems nice!”
Other siblings began using this same approach and over time, this helped him transition to his new and final place of residence at the memory care unit. Equally valuable, this approach of ‘changing the subject’ led to more meaningful and healing visits for all involved!
Research confirms, when we are upset, talking about a time when life was more pleasant is therapeutic and triggers a chemical reaction that helps brings a sense of clam.
The take away? As a caregiver sometimes it’s simply best to accept that “being right” isn’t the answer, i.e. it’s not the time to say, “Dad, enough already .. you are home”. It may be best to take our loved ones for a walk down memory lane!
The wonderful young woman who inspired this story is the daughter of the developer of Genus. Anna couldn’t have been kinder to her grandfather when he was suffering with Alzheimer’s and shared many wonderful, and yes, repetitive conversations about his past.