When a senior with Alzheimer’s asks to ‘go home,’ what does it mean?

Time-shifting is when a person’s experience is that they are living at an earlier time in their life and can be a stressful experience for everyone.

Home may describe something more than their current residence. It may refer to a sense of home, a memory or a place that was once comfortable and secure.

According to Alzheimer’s Society, what they perceive is as real to them as your reality is to you. It’s common for someone with dementia to request to go home because they often have damage to their short-term memory.

When someone with Alzheimer’s asks to go home, there are several ways you can dissolve the situation.

Avoid arguing or insisting they are already home. Instead, acknowledge their feelings and ask them to describe home. Provide reassurance that they are safe. Hold their hand and listen to them.

Keep photos handy. Looking at pictures from their past can ease anxiety and alleviate stress. Direct the conversation to events happening in the pictures. You can also suggest another activity, such as going for a walk or listening to music. Changing the subject can be helpful to someone experiencing time-shifting.

Consider whether the person is unhappy or lonely. These feelings can cause an individual with dementia to want to “go home.” Talk to their caregiver and if you’re uncertain of their happiness. The staff may be able to give some additional insights into whether the individual is having a bad day or an event may have triggered them to act out of character.

Sundowning is a term that describes a change in a person’s behavior in the late afternoon and early evening. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, a person with dementia may become more agitated or confused at these times.

Keep track of these occurrences by writing down the date and time in which they occur. Look for patterns such as time of day, whether they are hungry or tired, or often occur at the same time of day.

Heritage Woods of Minooka, an Assisted Lifestyle Community for the Older Adult, 701 Heritage Woods Drive, Minooka, IL, 60447, 815-467-2837, www.gardant.com/heritagewoodsminooka