Is wanting to "go home" part of Alzheimer's, even if the patient is at home?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My 87-year old Mother is living with my sister after 4 years in assisted living. Every night she tells me that she wants to "go home," to the town where she lived with my father for over 60 years. She has no family there, and is not able to live on her own. I try to steer the conversation away from this topic, but she brings it up every night - even though my sister is wonderful with her. Is this part of the Alzheimer's process?

Expert Answer

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

When she refers to "home," it's as an expression of an emotion. Home is where the heart is -- and her memories and heart are with your father and the home they shared. Unless she becomes too upset, try keeping on hand an album of pictures from the past so that she can reminisce about her life. When she expresses that she wants to "go home," just validate how special that time of life was for her.

If she has progressed to the stage of dementia where she has no touch with reality, it often works best , the house is being repainted right now." Or, "The house is being rented so someone else is living in it right now." Remember this is not lying, but helping the person live comfortably in their world.