Woman looking lovingly at man sitting in an armchair holding a walking stick

‘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 may be caused by time-shifting and 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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My younger sister (age 57) is in a memory care facility. She's been in there for about 6 months. She considers our mom's house her home because that is where we grew up. Every time we go visit her and take her out to do activities and take take her back to memory care, she starts crying and says she wants to stay the night at moms house. She said she's lonely and sacred. Mom and I are wondering if we should take her to mom's house to visit for a couple hours or will this just make things worst by not wanting to go back to memory care. I feel I'm being so cruel to her by not taking her to moms house.

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Every story is heart breaking ,for both the carer's and the Parents. I am still unsure how to deal with my Mom's wanting to go home. We are lost. My Pops had a stroke and a 3x cabg bypass. He has vascular dementia as well. Plus my Hubby is a lung cancer survivor-it has been almost 20 yrs-and now they have found a spot on his other lung.I am praying like there is no tomorrow. I feel for each and every one of you. I really wish they could come up with better medications to help slow down this awful spiral. My Mom and Pops have lived in their home for 42years. I am not sure which location she is referring to as her home. Her childhood home? or Home when she and my Pops got married? This is the hardest thing. I try to be patient as does my bro-inlaw and sister. We four live here in Mom and DAD'S home -with them. God Bless you all and your sick one/ones. Hang in there!

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My mum has recently gone to live in a new house with my sister and brother in law. She has vascular dementia and is no longer able to live on own safely.
My sister has made her living room as much like her old room as possible with her own things around her but she doesn't recognise them as her own.
She is constantly wanting to go home and doesn't understand she is living with my sister and thinks my sister is her carer and not her daughter. My sister is trying to not feel hurt but is finding it hard.
Mum is constantly ringing me and my other sister wanting to go home and saying she is not happy and why have we put her here. She isn't interested in anything anymore even her TV and sits thinking all the time about going home.
We are at a loss what to do as we thought this was the best thing for her.
sister and thinks my sister now is her

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We're sorry to hear this, Janice - it sounds like a difficult time for you and your sister.

We'd recommend calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia advisers. They are here to listen to you, understand the situation with you, your mum and your sister and provide you all with support. More details about the support line (including opening hours) are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

You and your sister might also find it helpful to talk to others who have been, or are currently in, similar situations. Within our online community, Talking Point, carers and other people affected by dementia share experiences, advice and offer support. You can browse the conversations that are happening in the community or sign up to become a member: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-talking-point-our-on… It's free to use, and open day or night.

We hope this helps, Janice.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Hi my mom has dimentia and I lived with her all my live but now she thinks there’s two of me she looks at me as her caretaker and she always looking for her daughter which is me…

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Hello Elisa,

We're sorry to hear this - it sounds like a really difficult time for you and your mom.

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 can be found here: 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, Elisa.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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It's amazing how the mind works. I would just go with it. Maybe get a hat for each one of your roles, so your mom knows who you are at any given moment. Have fun with it. She may be around for a while.

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My mum is in hospital due to health issue flare ups and has vascular dementia and Alzheimer's. They are lovely on the ward and treat mum well. A few days ago a new patient moved into mums ward. She also has dementia but constantly shouts for help and other things. There is no consoling her. My mum's mental health is getting worse because if the constant shouting which is also affecting mums physical health. Please could you advice me what I can do to help mum with her stay in hospital.

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Hi Sue,

We're sorry to hear about this - it sounds like a difficult situation.

We'd strongly recommend calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. You'll be able to talk to one of our trained dementia advisers, who can provide information, advice, and support specific to your mum's situation.

You can find more details about the support line (including opening hours) here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

We hope this helps, Sue. Please do call our support line for advice.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Hey. My dad is in a similar situation. I bought headphones for my dad and created a playlist of 40's music. The care givers remind my dad to put the headphones on when the woman next door starts screaming.

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What do you do when they are in their own home of 50 years and Has stopped believing it is their own home? My brother is taking care of mom and goes through this every evening of her insisting he take her home.

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Hi Shelley,

We're sorry to hear about your mom. If the advice in the article isn't helping, and you are based in the UK, we recommend speaking with one of our dementia advisers to discuss your mom's situation. They will be best placed to provide you with advice and support. You can 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 am dealing with this as well. Mom lives with me, and often wants to go home, even though we have lived here fir 50 years. She gets so focused on it, there is no distracting or redirecting her. She even threatened to call the police to have them come take her home. The article isn’t really helpful for those who are in the home they’ve lived in for decades.

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Terri, it’s been very frustrating trying to find information or help with this. I am currently going through the exact same thing with my father, and these last 2 months have been some of the hardest days I’ve ever had to go through. I’m sure it’s been equally tough for our parents. Ive found that changing the way I try to deal with him until I find something that works is the only way I’ve made any kind of progress.

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Our 87 year old mother wants to go home every night. We just tell her that we have a nice bed to sleep in at this house and as it is too dark to drive right now we will stay overnight and see about heading “home” when the sun is out. It seems to appease her.

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I tell my dad that we will go home as soon as the car is out of the shop, or that there's a pandemic and we have to stay put. I acknowledge his frustration and dissappointment, and try to talk about the feeling of being home. What makes a house a home? Connect to that part of him that misses home and security. I show him old photos.. Its tough.
Today I will take my dad for a drive around the neighborhood , and drive past a house he used to live in. We will talk about how it makes us feel. good luck!

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How do you explain that you can't visit each day because the facility is in lockdown ? Do you tell her or appeal to her better nature and continue to say you are tired today and won't be able to take her out etc ?

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Hi Annette,

It sounds like you might benefit from joining our online community, Talking Point, where carers and other people affected by dementia share their experiences and offer support. This could be an ideal place for you to speak to and get advice from others who have been in similar situations: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-talking-point-our-on…

You can also call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. When you call, our advisers can listen to your situation and offer dementia information, advice, and emotional support. More details about the support line (including opening hours) are here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

We hope this helps for now.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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What advice and help would be given to a care home resident with dementia who expresses the wishes of wanting to go back to the family home they own due to being extremely upset at being kept in the care home against the wishes of that person and hating it being in the care home and painfully missing being back at home again?

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Hello Richard, thanks for your comment.

For advice on a situation like this, we'd strongly recommend contacting our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456.

Our expert dementia advisers can listen to the situation and offer information, advice, and support. More details about the support line, including opening hours, can be found here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

Please do call the support line if you need help with this, Richard.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Hi. My Nan has vascular dementia and ended up in hospital with an infection. When the infection cleared up they sent her to a hospital further away, to help with getting her walking so she can go home. My Mom is her full time carer and does a fantastic job. The hospital she is in is too far away for us to visit often so we have asked if she can be moved to the local hospital, who have told us they have space. However they are refusing to transfer her. My Nan needs familiar faces and family contact. How can we get her closer to home to help her with her recovery? Thank you.

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Hello Nicola, thank you for getting in touch.

We'd recommend speaking with one of our dementia advisers by calling the Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. This is a great way to get dementia information, support and advice specific to your Nan's situation. (More information about the support line, including opening times, can be found here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line)

In the meantime, we have information on our website about hospital care, which includes if you experience problems with the person’s treatment or care (https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/help-dementia-care/during-hos…). This is also available as a downloadable 30-page PDF (https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/media/986).

Remember to call the support line to speak with someone about this.

We hope this is useful.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Would I be allowed to take my dad out off the home he is in .and look after him in his own apartment... I really want him home . The rest off the family just left him there please help any advice appreciated...

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Hi Angela,

Thanks for your comment.

We have an article on this which you may find helpful - it has some information on what is possible, as well as somebody's experience doing so. You can read the article here:
https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/moving-out-care-home-during-coronavi…

We hope this helps, but if you have any further questions don't hesitate to call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. You can find more details about the support line here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

Best wishes,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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What would one do if person doesn’t speak ?

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Hi Maryanna,

It can feel very difficult when dementia causes problems with communication. We have advice on all aspects of communication including when someone doesn’t speak: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/sym…

Our online community Talking Point includes many members with relatable experiences who can offer helpful suggestions and reassurance: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-talking-point-our-on…

You might also want to speak with one of our dementia advisers, who can answer questions on the challenges of dementia. You can call our support line on 0333 150 3456, or find out more information, including opening hours, here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementiaconnect

We hope this helps, Maryanna.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Sorry i realised i didn't really describe what he actually does lol
I feel he comes obsessed almost to the point that's all he fixated on problem is others start paying attention when he does these thing's.
He originally was removing the batteries out of the remote of tv and house phone we got to the point we couldn't keep going in circles so we glued the back of house phone, where it still charges etc, then came the prank calls which only way to prevent is ignore which is hard as worried he may need us also we was informed he made an few to people in his village stating he was lonely and wanted to talk but this scared me as I felt he may be putting himself in potential danger. At the minute his new fixation is he is uncomfortable, in pain and needs the carer's back out, unfortunately his other child did ring carers several time's for him , we refused after asking him why did he need carer's explaining its not an emergency, we have considered pretenting we have called them saying they can't come out but we believe this could potentially lead to difficulties with his carer's which isn't fair, however since his other child is also refusing he is ring emergency services where he has the ambulance atleast once but as much as 4, he also had the police at one point due to how many calls he is making, even though we have tried to explain and he seems to get the concept of what we are saying I'm not sure if he fully understands, he also refers to them as his carer's. I know most of this is him reacting to attention he receives and i can fully understand why he does it it is what most of us would do, we feel extremely guilty we aren't able to care for him but we just don't know what to do to help him as he isn't really helping himself and even calling him hourly and visiting him everyday which we couldn't keep up hasn't prevented this.

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Hi Shelby,

We're really sorry to hear about your father-in-law, and how difficult this time has been for you and your partner.

Please know that you, or your partner, can contact our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. When you call, our advisers can offer you detailed information, advice, and emotional support specific to your father-in-law's situation, as well as support for the two of you. More details about the support line (including opening hours) are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

You might also benefit from joining our online community, Talking Point, where carers and other people affected by dementia share their experiences and offer support. This could be a great place for you to speak to and get advice from others who have been in similar situations: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-talking-point-our-on…

We hope this helps, Shelby. Remember that you can always call our support line.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Thank you very much appreciated.

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I want to apologise now as I'm not the best at writing where things make sense. I really don't want to sound selfish but we are struggling to know what to do with my father in law. Me and my partner both have extra needs i myself has Autism, ADHD, CPTSD and my partner has moderate learning difficulties. My father in law is such an genuine gentle soul and he is amazing for what he has done in his life especially for the years I've known him he gave up his life to look after his wife who unfortunately passed away in December just gone since then everyone in his life seems to have an reason not to want to know him, even though he was always pushed to the side too much in mine and my partners opinion as he would refuse his hospital treatment and this was acceptable in eyes of his other child as his wife had an personality disorder where she would be unbearable to the point he couldn't leave the home without her playing up. We was told there was no help and support for us as my father in law is deemed not an danger but some would be available if he gets diagnosed which he did in February with vascular dementia, since then he has become bed bound has carer's 4 times an day apart from that he has us phoning or visiting when we can. He has become hard to manage at times as I'm writing this I've had 43 miss calls plus others where I've answered, I know he will be extremely lonely we have ask for bereavement support ect but everyone says he is Ok till he bothers them, I.e carers he previously had moaned as he was making serveral nuisance phone calls in the night so our suggestion of taking number out the phone was quickly stopped incase he needed the carer's even though we said he doesn't seem to know what an emergency is and he would ring us and we would ring an ambulance especially as we wouldn’t ring carers they have enough to do, but even though they didn't want number taken out of the phone they would ring us expecting us to go over to sort him even though an all round trip is just over an hr, even though we had refused this didn't prevent them phoning again other nights but then he ended up on hospital so they was no longer in charge of care. Now we are not having the best of times, I know most of it is down to loneliness and he gets attention from his actions he won't move closer, neither go in residential care but no-one will offer any support to help us combat this or helps us communicate in away that doesn't upset him. We both would love if we could look after him 24/7 but been realistic we wouldn't cope as we struggle to look after ourselves at times but also i work part time and my partner is in full time work after working his butt off for over 5 years voluntary and part time due to his needs he requires extra support which may come across an little selfish but we are 32 and 34 which means we aren't entitled to any money at first if we leave our jobs and likely hood of us getting jobs easily again is very low. If anyone has any suggestions of things we can try to settle him as we want him to stay at home for as long as he wants but to be happy and settle we know some days will be hard but there's no break at the minute and definitely no real support many thanks all

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My mom is 71. She’s lived with us for almost 3 years. I eventually was up most nights as she would wander and I was afraid she’d fall down the stairs as she would forget where she was and go into different rooms in the middle of the night. She was often confused and required assistance for meals, showers, meds, finances. It broke my heart to put her in a home in May. I love her so much but her safety especially with my going back to work was at risk. She begs regularly to come home. I decorated her room and she took it all down. She has been there over a month and will not sleep in the bed. She cries when I go there and asks me where she is, what the address is, why I put her there and how can I sleep at night knowing what I’ve done to her.. When I take her out she is happy (but regularly confused) and when I bring her back and leave she seems worse. She is so angry if I don’t take her for a drive and yet is so upset after I do. I cry often and feel so guilty. I know she needs the care. The place is wonderful but I wish I could have kept her here. Trying to soothe her while she is so angry and upset while also trying to deal with missing her tremendously makes me feel so sad. It’s such a hard thing.

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My Mum went into a home 2 weeks ago for the exact same reasons. Before she went in the benefits and safety issues outweighed my feelings of how I much I would miss her.. The care staff say she is content but I've seen her 3 times and she is always anxious and asking to come home. My guilt is overwhelming and keeps me awake, I cry all the time. I hope she settles, everyone keeps saying she will but I wish more than anything she hadn't left..
I hope you feel better soon, and I hope your Mum settles eventually.. The only thing that keeps me going is that she's safe.

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I feel bad for you we just placed her yesterday and all I do is cry, cannot imagine going to visit her as she was angry when we left her

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I’m so sorry to read these stories. My Mummof just 89 was recently put into a care home by her LPA, my elder sibling sister who we don’t get along with. I came home from shopping the other day and my Mum had been kidnapped (that’s how it felt) they took my Mum away behind our backs without consulting us (myself and my other sister) we are absolutely distraught. I had been living back at my Mum’s house for the last couple of years and this is the hardest days of my life. My Mum is now a 3 hour drive from me. Naturally she’s very confused and keeps begging me to come and take her home when I call her. It’s absolutely heartbreaking! So sorry to read all the other stories of loved ones who’s parents are suffering with this awful disease. 🙏

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We're really sorry to hear about this situation with your mum, John. It sounds like this is a really difficult time for you and your family.

It sounds like you might benefit from joining our online community, Talking Point, where you can talk to others affected by dementia, and get advice from people who have been in similar situations: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-talking-point-our-on…

Also, please know that if you or your sister ever need more support, then you can always call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 for information and advice. More details about the support line (including opening hours) are 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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Thank you Lynn, I really appreciate it. Hopefully they will both settle and we will cry less. It’s such a hard thing that pulls at your heart. I try to remember that when I feel so awful. It’s a painfully difficult thing and it’s ok to feel awful about it. ...and eventually, hopefully with time it will feel less awful for all involved. Sending love to you and your Mum.

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I feel for you, we put my mom in a home , shes 93 with dementia, had hallucinations called 911 all the time, has fallen many times refused health aides, so had no recourse. Its only been 2 weeks still angry and upset cries when we see her and when we leave, horrible....

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I know exactly how you feel I am going through the same dad has now been in a home for or 4 months and I am still carrying the Guilt I go see him nearly every day, and I take mum with me three times a week, and all he does is blame mum and accuses her of all thought which is very distressing for Mum and me, dad's mobility is not very good so he is in the safest place that still does not make me feel any better as he always asked when he is going back to his own house and all I can say to him is when you get better which is I know a compassionate lie but seams to settle him , but I hate myself for lying to him and I am trying to live with this everyday day and every day I cry,

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We're so sorry to hear about the difficult time you're going through.

Please know you can call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. One of our trained dementia advisers will listen to your situation, and offer specific information, advice and support. More details about the support line (including opening hours) are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

You might also like to join our online community, Talking Point, where carers and other people affected by dementia can share their experiences and support each other. You may find there are other people who have been in similar situations who can offer their own personal advice. You can browse the online community, or sign up for free here: https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/

We hope this is helpful. Please do call our support line if you need us.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My 99 year old mother is in residential dementia care transferring from hospital for assessment. She doesn’t have capacity but has for the whole time been fixating on going home wanting live-in care. This is unlikely to work as she would be confused and not like or accept someone else in her house. She couldn’t be left overnight. Taking photos/memory items to her doesn’t work and any little treats are seen as trying to get round her. She is unhappy that I can make decisions but doesn’t understand the need for it.l am seen as despicable and the baddie in the situation. Visits result in her ranting and both of us distressed. Coping with elderly relatives as we ourselves get older is difficult. I empathise with some of the problems others are going through

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