How do you deal with mom who is in a senior residence and says "I want to go home?"

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 18, 2016
Gerryv asked...

My mom has her own condominium and last year, still in mild stage of Alz agreed that the senior residence was good for her because of exercise, diet/meals, care/attention. However, almost monthly now, she says "I want to go home". Her Alz has gone to moderate and signs of paranoia, change in character has begun to exhibit themselves. Rationalizing with her re: going home does not work. I've taken her to her doctor who also has told her that going home would require 24 hour care (which we cannot afford). What have others tried to do to convince them staying is the best thing for her (without her getting all angry and saying we are doing things against her wishes). We know for a fact that if she were to move back home - she would be in worse shape due to the lack of structured routine and the access to care

Expert Answers

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Dear Gerry:

I'm sorry to hear that you're having to deal with the challenges of advancing Alzheimer's with your mother.

You're at a point in dealing with her where you have to make the decisions that are best for her well-being, and sometimes that means that your mom doesn't get a vote on those choices you make for her.

Your mom's ability to think rationally about certain things is now compromised - that's a loss of executive level thinking that comes with Alzheimer's disease. However, there are a few ways you can approach her ongoing requests to go home, other than trying to argue or remind her that it was her initial decision to move.

First, you need to confirm the possibility that it may be your visits that are actually triggering her requests to go home. Check with the staff and ask them about mom's behavior and comments when you're not there. If your mom attends the various activities and doesn't openly state to the staff that she's unhappy and wants to go home, she may truly be perfectly happy there, but has retained for now, the ability to simply "push your buttons" on this issue.

If you discover that your mom is generally happy where she is, the next step you can take every time your mom say's she wants to go home, is say to her, "Mom, this is your home." You can slowly ask her several questions - one at a time to make your point. Ask her, "Mom, you like the staff here don't you? the residents? the meals? the exercise? etc. The way you ask the question should get you the positive response you want.

This technique will give you a better picture of reality.and as she responds "yes" to some or all of the questions. You can remind her that she couldn't have those benefits anywhere else. You can ask her what she would like to see changed if there are any negative responses, and if they are something you can address with the management, staff or kitchen, do so and tell her you'll take care of it for her. Follow up to be sure any suggestions made about her care, meals or activities have been implemented, and listen to hear if your mom says anything about those changes, but don't reminder her of the negative she had stated, just let it slide.

It's even acceptable to tell your mom a "white lie" saying that when she moved to the new facility, she may not remember, but she sold her condo, and this is her new home, with all the amenities and activities that weren't available at the condo. Tell her how lucky she is to have so many people caring for her and providing her with everything she needs.

You've made a great decision, one that is best for your mom, and you and she will see that as her decline continues in the months ahead. You're doing all the right things, and this is a typical phase that many Alzheimer's patients go through - I went through it with my own mother - so hang in there. There's no reason for you to "accept" the guilt trip that's being implied for having moved mom to a new home.

Know you're doing the best you can, and enjoy the time with your mom by reinforcing that "this is home..." and reminding her of the things she likes about where she is living.

Good luck on the journey ahead.