When a Senior with Alzheimer’s Says “I Want to Go Home” – What Does It Mean?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  November 17, 2020
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Caregiving for a senior with Alzheimer’s brings many unique challenges. One of which is how to respond when your loved one repeatedly says the phrase “I want to go home.” In many cases, they are already home. Because they have memory loss, however, the environment no longer seems familiar to them.

For families, it can be a struggle to figure out what the senior really means and what needs aren’t being met. Adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia often lose some or all of their verbal communications skills. This makes it hard for them to tell their loved ones what is wrong.

Understanding What the Senior Means

While your family member might be asking to go home, there may be a reason why. The problem might actually be caused by something else:

  • Sadness or loneliness: By its very nature Alzheimer’s disease is isolating. As memory fades and the ability to remain independent declines, an older adult’s world becomes smaller. Imagine for a minute that no one and nothing around you looks familiar. You might remember some faces but you are unable to recall names or understand how these people relate to you. When you keep all of these issues in mind, it’s easier to understand why the senior repeatedly asks to go home.
  • Confusion: As short-term memories fade, an adult with Alzheimer’s might be confused about where home really is. Depending on the stage of their disease, home might be a place where they grew up or their first home as a married person. They may be trying to find their way back there.
  • Undiagnosed pain: Is your loved one in pain? For someone with diminished verbal skills, it can be tough to convey they are hurting. Sometimes you can tell by the look on their face. Try pointing to different parts of their body and asking them if it hurts. That way they can shake their head to answer yes or no.
  • Unmet needs: Your family elder may be expressing the need to go home because they are hungry, thirsty, tired, or need to use the bathroom. When their environment seems unfamiliar, they may be unsure how to find their way home or how to find a bathroom or kitchen. They may even want to lay down and take a nap. It might help if you offer them something to eat or drink. You could also try showing the senior to their bedroom or bathroom.
  • Boredom: Finding ways for a loved one with Alzheimer’s to feel productive can be difficult for a family caregiver. If they are bored and restless, their desire to go home might actually be the result of not having enough activity. Meaningful Activities for Adults with Alzheimer's at Home is a good resource for learning how to structure days for your family member.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care at Sunrise

If you have questions about memory care or would like to schedule a virtual or in-person tour, we invite you to call (888) 434-4648. One of our experienced team members will be happy to help! Most of our senior living communities in the US offer Alzheimer’s care.


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