How can I handle my mother when she has hallucinations while saying she wants to "go home"?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 21, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

This answer to "I want to go home" was partially helpful. However, my mother is adamant about going home to the point where she goes to the door and tries to leave. She looks out the window and "sees" home and people she grew up with. Her mother is not dead and she needs to go and see about her old house. Sometimes distraction works for a very short while, but often not.

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

Hallucinations and wanting to go home are common symptoms experienced by people with dementia. You don't mention if your mother was diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's.

Assuming she is living with dementia, the good news (if one can say this) is that as the disease progresses, she will hallucinate less and likely forget about going home.

The reason she wants to go home may be to feel safe and comforted, the way she was when she was a child.

Until this time, I suggest you try the following"”

Comfort her.

Enter her world for a while.

Ask her what she sees. Ask her to describe her home. Share pictures and old films. These may comfort her and bring her family to life.

Assure her.

Ask her if you can come along.

Suggest she wait for you to get ready (a potential diversion tactic). If you get ready and she is still trying to get out, ask her to lead the way. Be careful though, she may walk right up the neighbor's steps and knock on the door. Forewarn your neighbors.

Remember with her.

Ask her to tell you about her childhood"¦her favorite times. Share with her your own memories of the stories she'd tell you about her childhood.

The truth is, even if you were able to take her to her childhood home, she will not likely recognize it.

Just as she comforted you when you were afraid as a child, you are now comforting her as she fears being in a strange place"”a place, sadly, that she cannot remember.

Additional helpful articles:

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

Alzheimer's Symptom: Says, "I want to go home" (whether home or not)

8 Ways to Soothe Someone With Dementia Who Says, "I Want to Go Home"

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