Should we tell Dad he can't go back home?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Auralady asked...

By the time my mother-in-law passed away, we came to the realization that my father-in-law was seriously unable to care for himself. She had hidden problems from us for some time. We live thousands of miles away. The problem is that he is now in a care facility and is constantly thinking of leaving the facility to go back home. We have some disagreement in the family about whether or not to tell him that the home has been turned over to the lender. They has racked up serious debt and owned far more than could be paid from the sale.

He has good days and really bad days. We are of the opinion that telling him on his good days would help the problem of him trying to leave the grounds and possible be lost and uncared for. He becomes violent at the thought of moving out of the area and we have placed him in a facility near the area he live in. Do you think it would be helpful to tell him or just a added stress on him?

Expert Answers

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

Relocating is always a complex issue for older adults and expressing a desire to return home is very common"¦.and can persist for years. If the elder suffers from a moderate stage of dementia with disorientation to place, this plaint could be a daily request. Often persons with dementia living in their own homes express the desire to "go home" so the statement always needs exploration. It is unclear whether your father in law's inability to care for himself upon widowhood was due to cognitive or physical impairments. It is also unclear whether he now retains an adequate perception of reality. Your explanation to him about what happened to his house would really depend upon that.

If your father-in-law has significant memory loss, telling him he has no house anymore on a good day might not be retained on a bad day. Thus you would need to tell him this on a daily basis and hope it might enter into memory. However, if his judgment and reasoning are intact, and he comprehends that he now has nowhere to go, he might become adjusted to his present environment. It all depends upon his overall level of dementia.

It sounds as though your father has freedom of movement at his facility and could leave if he wanted. Thus, it does not sound as though the facility is geared to dementia. If leaving the facility presents a risk to your father in law's safety and security, it sounds like the staff needs to implement some safeguards"¦.or you may need to relocate him to a residence with more supervision.