How do I deal with my mother, who has Alzheimer's, when she wants to "go home"?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother has Alzheimer's and every day she wants to leave and go home or just leave my house.  She packs anything she can or whatever is in her way.  Please help me . Some people say a doctor.will give her medications that will make her sleep.  I dont want her being a zombie.

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.

I appreciate that you do not want to use medication , try behavioral interventions first.   Alzheimer's housing anxiety is not unusual .  The reason why she feels as if she must leave is that at the end of the day for most people in their younger years (where  she might be in her mind,) it is a time to go home from work or start preparing for the evening meal.  The sun is setting, thus the term "sun-downers" and she is perhaps just tired after spending an exhausting day trying to cope with everything going on around her that she might not understand.    See if she will take a nap before the behavior starts.  Lower extra stimulation like the television and try to reduce the number of things going on around her.

Have a suitcase ready for her and a pile of clothing that she can "pack".  When she is sleeping unpack and get everything ready for her to pack again the next day.  If at all possible, give her something to do while she is waiting for a "ride".  Peeling potatoes, folding laundry, setting the table, any chore she can still do.  This might also be a time when you can go to a room that has fall lighting and have a cup of decaf tea or coffee and make this a special time with mom.  If all of the behavioral interventions do not work, discuss the situation with her physician who may be able to prescribe a mild anti anxiety medication.