What to do when someone with dementia asks to go home

What to do when someone with dementia asks to go home

When somebody with dementia asks to go home, responding appropriately can be difficult. Sometimes the person may be in care and unable to return home; other times they may already be at home, which presents something of a challenge to explain.

As specialists in dementia care at home, asking to go home is a phenomenon we come across regularly at Ambiance Care, and we understand how frustrating it can be for loved ones to deal with this request – especially if it’s repeated often.

It can be tempting to use logic to explain to the person that they are home, or that they can’t return to their previous home, but unfortunately, this approach simply won’t work.

Why people with dementia ask to go home

The brain of someone living with dementia is damaged progressively, so they can’t process or retain information in the way they could before the condition set in.

Telling someone with dementia that they are at home – or why they can’t go home – may seem like the logical approach, but more often than not this information won’t be stored, which is why the person might repeat the request again and again.

The reasoning behind their request to go home isn’t necessarily as clear cut as actually going home, or might not make sense if they are already home. Asking to go home can actually be a request for comfort and shows that the individual with dementia is experiencing anxiety, fear or discomfort of some sort.

In this situation, providing comfort and reassurance can help the person on an emotional level. Once they’re calm, it’s also often possible to make sure that they aren’t experiencing discomfort or distress from a physical need, which might also be the catalyst for their request.

By relieving their fear or anxiety, or by identifying a physical source of discomfort, it’s possible that the individual’s requests to go home may reduce. At the very least it can provide insight into the best course of action next time the situation arises.

How to respond when someone dementia asks to go home

There are various ways to respond when someone with dementia asks to go home – these tips below should help, but it’s always best to tailor the approach to the person, as we do at Ambiance Care.

Don’t argue or reason it out

For a person with dementia, ‘home’ might represent something other than a physical place – it might be the sense of home and how they felt there.

Trying to explain or argue that they’re already home or cannot return home can make the situation worse and add to their distress, so it’s best not to disagree with what the person is saying. Instead, embrace it and acknowledge their feelings.

You could encourage your loved one to tell you about home with open questions – what their favourite room is, any special memories of home they may have.

In this way, you’re validating their feelings but also understanding more about what was particularly comforting to them about home, which can be helpful in recreating similar experiences in the here and now, or identifying why they aren’t feeling comfortable at present.

Offer reassurance and comfort

If a person feels anxious or fearful, try offering comfort and respond to them gently and calmly. This will help them to feel supported and reassured while also letting them know that their feelings are valid.

Gentle touches, a reassuring smile, calm conversation and even a hug can all help, depending on what’s appropriate for your loved one.

By being calm, you promote calmness in the other person, too. You might also consider offering them something they find soothing, like a blanket or favourite soft toy.

Identifying if there’s a pattern when the individual asks to go home – perhaps before teatime or after they’ve seen visitors – can be helpful, too, as it may signal discomfort like social overwhelm or a physical need like being hungry.

Divert and distract

If the person is experiencing negative emotions, it might be helpful to divert their attention elsewhere. There are lots of distractions you might consider, from offering them a cup of tea or something to eat to putting on their favourite radio station.

Looking at old photos, watching a film or going for a walk can all help distract an individual with dementia from their fearful state and provide welcome respite.

If the person continues to ask to go home, you could even embrace their request and get them ready to go out. During the journey, suggest stopping by a café, a garden centre or other diverting destination.

Whether on foot or in the car, the symbolic action of going out somewhere may be enough to provide that comfort they’re seeking.

Taking someone out for a walk or car ride can help bring comfort to people with dementia asking to go home
A car ride can be diverting for individuals with dementia

At Ambiance Care, we offer a tailored approach to dementia care at home in Stockport, East Cheshire and South Manchester.

Our experienced team cares for every individual with compassion and respect, using informed care techniques so you always know your loved one is in safe hands.

We also assist you in mastering these dementia care techniques so you feel more comfortable in your caring role and experience the positive lasting benefits it brings to your entire family.

Find out more about how our dementia home care services can help you and your loved ones by contacting us today.