Close up of a woman looking downwards

‘I want to go home’ - What to say to someone with dementia in care

Here are some ways family members and primary carers can approach the difficult question, 'What do I say to someone with dementia in residential care who wants to go home?'

It is not uncommon for a person with dementia in residential care to say they want to go home. This can be distressing for everyone. Below are a few considerations on what to say to someone in this situation who wants to go home.

5 things to remember when someone with dementia is asking to go home

1. Avoid arguing about whether they are already ‘home'

For a person with dementia, the term 'home' may describe something more than the place they currently live. Often when a person with dementia asks to go home it refers to the sense of home rather than home itself.

‘Home’ may represent memories of a time or place that was comfortable and secure and where they felt relaxed and happier. It could also be an indefinable place that may not physically exist. 

It’s best not to disagree with the person or try to reason with them about wanting to go home.

If he or she doesn't recognise their environment as 'home' at that moment, then for that moment, it isn't home. 

Try this instead:

Try to understand and acknowledge the feelings behind the wish to go home. Find out where 'home' is for them - it might not be the last place they lived. It could be where they lived before moving recently or it could be somewhere from their distant past.

Often people with dementia describe 'home' as a pleasant, peaceful or idyllic place where they were happy. They could be encouraged to talk about why they were happy there. This can give an idea as to what they might need to feel better.

2. Reassure them of their safety

The desire to go home is probably the same desire anyone would have if we found ourselves in a strange and unreasonable place.

Try this instead:

Reassure the person verbally, and possibly with arm touches or hand-holding if this feels appropriate. Let the person know that they are safe.

It may help to provide reassurance that the person is still cared about. They may be living somewhere different from where they lived before, and need to know they’re cared for.

3. Try diverting the conversation

Keep a photograph album handy. Sometimes looking at pictures from their past and being given the chance to reminisce will ease feelings of anxiety. It might be best to avoid asking questions about the picture or the past, instead trying to make comments: 'That looks like Uncle Fred. Granny told me about the time he....'

Alternatively, you could try diverting them with food, music, or other activities, such as a walk.

4. Establish whether or not they are feeling unhappy or lonely

A person with dementia may want to 'go home' because of feelings of anxiety, insecurity, depression or fear. 

Is the person with dementia happy or unhappy now? If they are unhappy, it may be possible to discover why. If they cannot tell you why, perhaps a member of the staff or another resident knows why.

Like other people, someone with dementia may act out of character to the people closest to them as a result of  a bad mood or bad day.

Does the person with dementia keep talking about going home when people are not visiting them in the care home? Does he or she seem to have settled otherwise? The staff in the home may know.

Our dementia advisers are here for you.

5. Keep a log of when they are asking to go home

Certain times of the day might be worse than others. What seems to be the common denominator about these times? Is it near meal times (and would a snack perhaps help)? Is it during times when the environment is noisier than usual? Is it later in the day and possibly due to ‘sundowning’?

If you see a pattern, you can take steps to lessen or avoid some of the triggers.

Selecting and moving into a care home

Our booklet will help if you're caring for or supporting someone with dementia and are looking to choose the right care home. This free resource also has tips for moving into a care home, including advice on asking to go home.

Order the booklet Download the PDF
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237 comments

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I am currently a caretaker for my son's great grandma. She was diagnosed with Alzheimers about about 5 years ago after many years of her husband refusing to take her to a doctor. Sadly he has passed away and the family has become the primary caretakers. She is unable to be placed anywhere due to covid. I'm not related to the family by blood but I have a history of my mom being an live in aid for the disease. She is currently asking to go home about every 2 minutes. I've tried to look at the emotion and not the words but nothing seems to calm her. She wont' partake in any activities and I can't think of anything to help her. She is barley able to hold a conversation without it leading back to asking about home. If there are anymore tips or advice that would be greatly appreciated.

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Hi Jonathan,

We'd recommend visiting our online community, Talking Point, where carers and other people affected by dementia can share their experiences and receive peer support: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-talking-point-our-on… You may find more tips and advice here that could be useful.

We hope this helps,
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Hang in there. You (we) can do it!!!

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Very informative, came across this by chance as my elderly father with dementia has asked "to go home" each day. He lives alone & can barely walk now. He dresses himself still but everything is put on inside out or back to front. I care for him 80% of the week & my brother does the 20% . My father has gone downhill in the last 6 months and even thinks someone else is in his bed at night, so won't sleep in it. We have to make his food each day as can no longer use cooker/microwave. We don't want him to go into a home & neither do he. He is very down as he just sits in his chair day in, day out. Its a sad situation & I am losing my Dad every day

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Hi Jo,

Thanks for your comment. We are really sorry to hear you're going through such a difficult time, but we're glad this blog post was informative.

Please know that you can always call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 for more information, advice and support specific to your Dad's situation. More details about the support line (including opening hours) is available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

We hope this is helpful,
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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I understand your pain. Going through the loss of relationship with my Mom, and we were very close. Hang in there, ok. You can do it!

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My husband is in a care home with dementia, his careers live out and go in each shift to care for him(beautifully) I visit three or four times a week I have been shielding since February and just go out to visit him.It seems cruel not being able to hold his hand or hug him,for me as well as him, Not fair when I am exposed to just myself and my daughter whilst the staff go home and their family life and can touch him.

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I am so great full for the article and comments. My mom was diagnosed with dementia not sure if good or not but I call her (LOLA) just despise saying dementia. I took care of her for a year , now she lives with sister and I help and more than happy to spend time with her twice a week.
It saddens me to see her in one quick year , deteriorate the way she has. Because of articles and comments I have learned to re assure her constantly we love her, she is protected and we are here for her no matter what.
Stay positive and sometimes do something for you, emotionally is a roller ride.
Always remember what she, he did for you when you depended on them.

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My dad is still living at home with a mild case of dementia. He is feeble and not strong enough to walk around. He is driving mama to the brink about wanting to go home. They are in the house that they have lived in for 61 years! I don't know how to help mama. He keeps threatening to "walk" home if she doesn't drive him. He interacts with the great granddaughter but doesn't talk too much to others unless he is on the " wanting to go home mood". He does not seem to recognize the house, doesn't know which bedroom is his or where the bathroom is. You can see all these rooms from his recliner, as this is a small house. Today he woke up wanting to ho home....mama was nearly out if it tonight as she has battled this all day long.
I live 650 miles away and it is hard for me to help. Tried to give him a small dose of medication to reduce his anxiety but he loses all his strength and mama can not m over him around if he can't hp at all.
Is there anything we can do to redirect him from wanting to go home when he is in the only home he has lived in for 61 years?
Thanks any help would be appreciated.

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Hi Anita,

Thanks for your comment - and sorry to hear that you've all been having such a difficult time. That sounds really challenging.

If the advice in this blog post isn't working for you, then we'd strongly recommend speaking to one of our trained dementia advisers. You can call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 for information, advice and support: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

Hope this helps, Anita.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Hi Anita, My dad went through this exact same situation. At first he would almost argue with her but that didn't help, so one day he actually put her coat on and told her he would take her home. He put her in the car and drove her around for 10 minutes and then pulled up to the house and said they were home. She said how nice it was to be back home and even made a comment about being glad to finally leave those people as she dint really like them. She was talking about herself and dad. He had to do this a few times and within a few weeks she stopped asking. Good luck Anita, I know its not easy x

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Thanks. Mama does this on a regular basis.. sometimes it helps for the rest of the evening sometimes it doesn't. It is so hard on her to have him "wanting to go home " all day long. Most days it starts late(sundowning) but other days he is like that from the time he wakes up until bedtime. I am going home in a few weeks and will try a realistic stuffed dog....I just read that a stuffed animal or realistic baby doll helps calm them down. It is worth a shot. My family mainly points out the obvious ( argues that they are home, the pictures on the wall etc) but in daddy's mind nothing is obvious. This is such a dreadful disease for all people involved.
Thank you so much for your suggestion.

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Ive moved in with my mom ive sold my house to care for her to keep her at home she recognises her home some days and today she keeps saying take me home it breaks my heart as i only want the best for her GP prescribed promazine to calm her but it seems to make her worse .There is no way she is going into care i will cope as long as i can as i love her dearly but some nights i cry i feel im losing her i dont even know the stage of dementia shes at im a staff nurse but find when this situation hits home its hard

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sorry to hear your going though a difficult time ,maybe when she get upset you can suggest some exercise or look at some pictures try to get her focus on something else

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Hi we are moving my Nan from the dementia care home she is in at present to another one so she is closer to family and to keep her safe as the home she is in is not keeping her safe.

What advice can you give for making the move more smooth, she hasn’t been out of the home she is in since going in , in October 2018. We know it’s going to be hard but any advice would be appreciated as not seen her since lockdown either.

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Hi Vicki,

Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear that your nan has been having a difficult time in her current care home.

We'd strongly recommend calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456, where you'll be able to talk to a trained dementia adviser. They'll be able to learn more about your situation and give information, advice and support.

We also have a free booklet on selecting and moving into a care home. The advice is more general than you might need, though, so it may be better to call the support line. I'm linking it here too in case it's useful:

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/publications-and-factsheets/s…

Hope this helps, Vicki.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My father has been in a care home for 5 weeks. I would say his dementia is moderate. We have only, just this week been able to visit through the window due to covid and he has asked to "get me out of here" ever time we visit. He says it's like a prison. The staff in the home say he is fine but how do we know if this is part of his condition or whether his feelings are justified. His social worker asked what his address was and he gave 2 addresses from his younger days but not the most recent one. He seems unhappy but would moving him to another care home make any difference? it's so upsetting.

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Hi Ann,

Sorry to hear about your father, this sounds like a really difficult situation.

We'd strongly recommend talking to one of our trained dementia advisers about this. You can reach them by calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. From here, they'll be able to learn more about your situation and give information, advice and support: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

Really hope this helps, Ann.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Thank you, I will contact them.

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My husband has dementia , some days i have to drive for hours because he asked to go home, so i will take him to his old address and he will say no , then i will ask him to give me the address and it will be in Cuba, it's very hard some days but I don't want to put him in a home, and I'm by myself also The lord he is my help.

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God Bless you and your Husband.
When he asks to go home, he’s most likely trying to tell you something else.
Try holding his hand and looking him in the eyes and say, “You’re safe here with me.”

Try to distract him from thinking about, “going home.”
He’s most likely feeling anxious, confused, or even depressed.

God Bless you both. ❤️

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My mum has had vascular dementia for the past 7 years, she lost Dad 28 years ago, she came and lived with me because my sister was being abusive towards her, whilst she was living with me she caught shingles in her eye & head, she was so poorly I thought she was going to die, she slowly recovered, last November she fell and broke her hip and was moved into a care home, she was diagnosed with cancer in April and had another operation, which I have been told they successfully removed, she has gone down hill, she was then moved from hospital into nursing home. Because of covid 19 we are only allowed to see her once a week through a glass window, she looks so sad you can see it in her eyes, the home is lovely and I know that she is safe and well looked after, she asks all the time when am I coming home which is upsetting for us all, I just wish I could do something to make Mum happy and have my old Mum back, the guilt that I feel is horrible, I just wait for the day to come when Mum passes away, I know that I will feel like I let her down :-(

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My mother was diagnosed with moderate to severe dementia approx 6 months ago, she seemed to have went downhill from my dads passing 5 years ago and she cant remember him anymore . She recently started wandering looking for home and is now a flight risk, so I gave up my job and moved in, i have been her now for 4 months and only get out twice a week for 3 hours at a time, if i go out i am afraid that she will leave the house as she no longer recognises it as being her own. I had no help from family member who seemed to make every excuse there was not to help out And i watched as they Selfishly socialised and had fun whilst abandoning me and my needs, so i had to make the very difficult decision to place her in care, i cant help feeling guilt and shame for doing so and am not sure if im Making the right decision especially at this time with covid 19, There are days when she is lucid and other days Where she cannot remember anything at all and then i believe im doing the right thing. Its One of the hardest decisions ive ever had to make And feel like im abandoning her, everyone tells me not to feel guilty but its easier said than done, any advice would be much appreciated

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Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment.

We're so sorry to hear about your mum's condition and your experience caring for her. This sounds incredibly difficult for you both.

Feelings of guilt can be really common in families as dementia progresses, or when somebody needs to move into residential care. We have some advice on our website here which you may find helpful: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/guilt-dementia-how-manage-guilty-fee…

It can also be a good idea to talk to others about how you're feeling. So please know that we're here for you and you can call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 whenever you need it: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

You might also want to have a look at our online community, Talking Point. Here you can connect with other people with similar experiences, ask questions and talk about how you've been feeling.

I hope this is helpful, Sarah.

Take care,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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I am in the process of having my mom placed in care, she needs more than just me. My mom is loving , strong willed, determined and a independent person so having her dementia change her care needs is hard to process and accept, but it is her reality and me denying it does not help her. Having gone through this with my father in-law in the past, I know it can get to the place when you can have visits where you relax together and enjoy each others company, they come and go. Dementia is a cruel disease it is hard when it feels like you can’t comfort a loved one. Remember you need them to have a safe and respected home environment. Covid does not help because of the separation. If you like the home she is in, and you like the care environment, then breathe and accept that you are doing your best. Caring is more than us watching our parent it should include others sharing stories, age related friends to reminisce with and us to love them. Independence come when your needs are met even if that includes help by others. It is very difficult to be separate and limited in our time together and not there to hold their hand, but there are things you can do and keep in mind. My mom needs to build relationships with her care team she needs to become familiar with her environment so when things get worst she feels safe, this takes time and it does help with dementia to have a routine and to recognize faces, it creates a feeling of safety over time. You can also write her notes to keep In her pocket that reassure her that she is safe and you love her. I live where I can see mom on a restricted time line however, I write notes for her to read when I am away. I remind her she is safe, she can call me anytime and that I love her. I remind her that I will be back to see her. Remember Love is built over a life time and it’s never forgotten it’s always a part of us regardless of circumstances. So be kind to yourself, it’s what she would want for you. We will get through this. We can only do our best with the reality we have, there is no magic wand or perfect solution, life is messy with moments of wonderful. Take care

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OMG, I just was surfing and found this website and have been reading and now I feel less anxious. Thank you so much for sharing your stories!!! As mine is similar, March 10th my mom fell broke her hip covid-19, and then she fell again April 20th, she has been diagnosed with dementia,,, I'm not sure exactly when, but now I understand alittle better what's occurred.. as the months of phone calling, some talks she's okay, and others she not, although for The Last 5 Years After Dad's passing has been hard 60 years of marriage! 86 depressed and lonely bored... We've done our best caregiving and goin shopping it's been good many times..over the last years and she had a dog for a year.and she was in her own home, up until March and so anyways haven't seen her and she's in a senior living facility!! Permanent, is what I'm trying to accept now.. it's a very good place and they are taking good care of her as far as I know not being able to go has really left me in the dark...and the guilt and the stress that I feel and I'm confused and I don't understand because sometimes she's very confused other times she's clear, she was wondering why she wasn't getting better a couple months ago and I kept telling her that she would in time, but she hasn't,!! And I wonder if it's because she's not at home, but from what I'm reading and learning that's not the case and so also,I have to accept that she's not coming home as financially we need to sell the house in order to pay for her care.. This is the hardest thing I've ever gone through I feel like I'm losing my mom and in ways I am, I keep hoping that she'll get better and I'll be able to take her to go shopping, still.. after the covid-19 of course, my brother is angry with me and says I need to catch up to speed because I am in denial !! Yes, true!!!that's how I cope, I just hate this, already lost two brothers and my dad and now this with my mother, I thought she would live at home and pass like Dad and now the decisions that we've made I don't know if they're right or not but from reading the text here I believe we are doing the right thing. I keep calling her and sometimes I get through and other times I don't but I've also started mailing tons of cards that I hope she's enjoying... So thank you for your shares and I hope that my sharing has helped others, no one told me it would be this hard with aging parents, even if they did I wouldn't have believed it!

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My grandfather has late-stage Alzheimer’s, and he often states that he wants to go home. My mother has pieced together clues (such as his asking where his children are) and realized that - to him - “home” is the period of time in which he and my grandmother were raising their children (rather than having adult children) in a different area than they live currently. Mom believes that those years must’ve been his happiest. Sometimes, “home” isn’t just a different place - it can be a different time, too.

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My mum lives with me in our home. I never moved out. When I'm at work she looks to go home our carers told me. Do we do the same points as in article or do something else to reassure her she's safe

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Hi Emma, thanks for your comment.

We're really sorry to hear about this situation with your mum. It sounds as though the advice in this article would be relevant for you, so perhaps give some of the ideas a try and see how it goes.

If that's not helping, or you're looking for more ideas, we'd encourage you to contact our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 or email on [email protected]. One of our trained dementia advisers will be able to learn more about your situation and give information, advice and support.

Please do contact us if you're feeling unsure about this or anything else related to your mum's care.

Hope this helps, Emma.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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When my mum fell and broke both hips, after the anaesthetic she was very confused, I was told she had Dementia, I moved her in with me and my son. She had a mortgage and we could not afford to carry on with the payments, after losing my dad to Alzheimers. I sold her house and paid off the mortgage, and as mum had in her Will. I put a small amount into my mortgage. Three years on, its been better for mum to be with family although, obviously her condition worsens..
I never thought at the time but, I have since heard that if mum needs to go into a home as her conditions worsens, will her care need to be funded by me. I lost my husband four years ago and I am now a single person, working part time ...to care for mum.

Many thanks

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Hi Anne,
Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear about your mum.
We have some information on our website about paying for care, which you may find helpful. The law varies a bit in different countries - where are you based? Our advice covers people living in England, Northern Ireland and Wales
England: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/legal-financial/who-pays-care
Northern Ireland: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/legal-financial/who-pays-care…
Wales: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/legal-financial/who-pays-care…

Hope this is helpful, Anne. If you need more information, advice or support, please call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. More details (including opening hours) are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

Thanks,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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June 21, 2020
What are the rights of someone that may have dementia to stay in his or her own home? My mother's brother (in his 80s) who lives alone was recently admitted to the hospital because of strange behavior. He recently experienced the passing/loss of his dog who has been with him for well over 10 years. I believe this happened in May, 2020. The hospital where he was said my uncle was confused. To my knowledge no one has a confirmed diagnosis of dementia or alzheimers. The hospital found he tested positive for covid-19. He was asymptomatic; no fever and no upper respiratory distress. My uncle has grown children, but he is independent, and has always taken care of himself without the help of his children. One of his daughters said the doctor told her he had bleeding in the brain, however it appeared to be stable. This is the daughter who has been making all the decisions for him while in the hospital. He had to stay in the hospital until he tested negative for covid-19. He keeps telling us that he's going home. His daughter said he would go home with her once he gets out of the hospital. However, she has placed him in a facility that takes almost two hours to get to. Most times when my mom & I call to speak to him, we're told that he is asleep. When we speak to him by phone, his speech is slurred due to the medication given to him. None of his children have any intention of taking him out of the facility to take him either to his own home or home with them. My mom offered to have him brought to our house as an alternative so that he can be monitored, along with home health aide assistance. He wants to go back to his apartment, however, one of the daughters has her son living in his apartment now. My mother, a retired nurse, has always been there for her brother, and now it seems like she can't do anything, and that his rights are null and void. What more can we do (if anything) to help my uncle maintain his independence with healthcare provided in the home?

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Hello Jo-Ann,

We're very sorry to hear about your uncle's situation, and the difficulties your family are experiencing with the care system.

If you are based in the UK, we recommend speaking with one of our dementia advisers to discuss the situation. They will be best placed to provide you with advice and support. Please call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. (More information on opening times: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-connect-support-line)

If you're based in the US, please contact the Alzheimer's Association helpline: https://alz.org/help-support/resources/helpline Or if you're based in Canada, please contact the Alzheimer's Society of Canada helpline: https://alzheimer.ca/en/Home/ContactUs

Wishing you all the best,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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I keep reading “appeared” and “seems”. You can’t imagine the stress that the decision maker deals with when it comes to dementia. What does the doctor say? Sometimes it’s best to stay out of things when you don’t have all the facts. If he trusted the daughter to make his decisions- please support her. It’s very tough to deal with dementia and family that do not gave all the facts.

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