How do I handle my wife when she thinks we are in someone else's home?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

wants to go home to her own home. My wife thinks that we are in someone else's home every night around about 4pm and that i use the peoples food ect.

Expert Answers

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

This baffling syndrome is rather common with folks who have Alzheimer's disease or one of the related diseases and is called 'sundowning' because it generally occurs late in the afternoon as the sun is literally going down. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the best response is usually to agree with the person who is expressing these incorrect assumptions. For instance, in response to her wanting 'to go home' you might say "we'll be going home home shortly but right now we need to set the table or wash the dishes". Many people with a dementing illness feel the need to be productive and sundowning is more apt to occur in someone in need of feeling useful or who requires something to do in order to feel as if they are still contributing family members. A good answer to 'using the people's food' would be "they asked us to eat these things so they won't go bad while they're away on vacation". Although these fiblets may be difficult for you at first, you will most likely learn that a validation of her delusions relieves the confusion for her - if only temporarily. Fiblets are usually a a much better solution than attempting to rationalize with someone who has lost the ability to reason. The latter tends to increase confusion and often is accompanied by agitation. If you can pinpoint the time of day the sundowning is occurring, and you seem to have done this well, you may find relief by keeping her busy beginning a half hour before the sundowning generally happens - in your case giving her a chore to do or taking a walk at 3:30 may keep this syndrome from appearing. Do remember to try being in the world she now inhabits where her reality is quite different from yours. Take good care of yourself!