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 mother in law came to live with us almost a year ago. She has started telling us she wants to go home but when we take her to her house she argues that this is not her house or her things and demands we take her to her home! But she has no idea how to get there. She has been diagnosed as having dementia. She gets very angry at her son and I don’t know how to handle it.

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My mom has been in a nursing home for almost 9 months now. Recently I decided to talk to a therapist because the guilt was hard to deal with and the phone calls with her are never good. Tonight for example she left a voicemail telling me that I must have the devil in my head and she doesn’t know what happened to me that I would put her in such a place. It was a long voicemail with plenty of insults. I am the only daughter with one brother who is 12 years older then me and he is having a lot of medical issues and my other brother passed away in 2005. The therapist has helped me but it is still so very hard to listen to her voicemails or talk on the phone with her. Our 20 minute visits once a week are usually fine and we can talk about my grandkids or other family members. She will always bring up that she doesn’t want to be there and gets upset when our 20 minutes is over.
I wish there was some type of comfort I could give to others going thru the same thing with their parents t but all I have to really say is that you are not alone and try to be easy on yourself.

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My mother has dementia and just went into a nursing home a few weeks ago. She is very upset with us "kids" as she wants to go home. She says she misses her place and being able to cook for herself. And said she misses feeling useful as there is nothing to do in the nursing home. She was crying yesterday..( I have never seen her cry) saying that we are awfully for dumping her in there, without giving her a choice. She is still very sharp...so its difficult to change subjects. Because she knows what your doing. And explaining anything only upsets her...and she has a reasonably argument for everything we say. I feel horrible that she is in there. And I would take her if I could. But I cant at this time. She said she feels herself getting more and more unhappy. (She is usually a happy person) And that we might as well have shot her with a silver bullet. Because she does not want to live there her whole rest of her life. The staff have said that she is telling them also that she wants to go home. We thought it would be better after her 2 week quarantine. But it's not gotten better. The recreation department said she has very much enjoyed the recreations. But she tells us she does nothing in there. I'm not sure if its because she does not remember or that she does not want to admit she likes something about the place. Because of Covid we are not able to even visit outside. Today she threatened to walk home. Is there some way to make her happy? Or understand that we were not being terable kids who abandoned her there? If you talk to her it's hard to catch her dementia, unless you asked certain questions...like what happened yesterday or who she talked to yesterday.
Can you please give me and my siblings some insite.

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i’m in the same boat but my husband of 50 years. it’s hell watching them!

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I wish you the very best with your husband. I hope that his and your new life will be as happy as it can be.

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Hello, this is my first visit to this website, you have just described my mother and our situation. I don’t have any suggestions but just wanted to say thank you for your question.

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Thank you for your reply.
My mom surprised us by saying that she has finally excepted that she will be living there. After she called the police twice saying my sister was keeping her keys and wallet we thought she would never except it. But I think with the fantastic staff and love and support from family, She realized we were all trying to do the best for her.
I found at first I was trying to placate her by saying maybe on a few months when I moved she could live with me. I think it helped for a few days...but ultimately it just confused her and slowed down the acceptance. I think they go through the same steps as a person who lost a loved one. Disbelief..confusion...denial
..sadness ..bargaining..anger..and then acceptance.
She is now looking forward to getting her own room eventually. And is starting to nest. Asking for face cream.. her clothing, jewelry and a few of her favorite things.
I'm now hoping she will make friends and that covid restrictions will be lifted soon.
I wish you and your family many blessings..I hope all goes well.

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The rules covering dementia and care in general are inhuman to the sufferer snd loved ones especially when the dementia is in the early stages. My wife has dementia following a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage. I wish to move to Sheffield taking my with me (to a care home). But the obstacles are horrendous.asshe is in the early stages she needs family support

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My grandmother she doesn't remember Anything she is talking to her self . She is 86 years. She has an anger when you try to talk to her I think it started 4 year ago I do really think what should I do please help 😭😭😭😭
I am 15 years old

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Hi Thembisile,

Thanks for getting in touch, and sorry to hear about this situation with your grandmother.

If your grandmother doesn't already have a diagnosis of dementia, then encouraging her to see a GP would be a good idea. You may find this page on our website helpful:
https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/how…

Once a person has a diagnosis, they will be able to access a wider range of support.

You may also find it helpful to talk to one of our Dementia Advisers, who can learn more about your grandmother's situation and provide relevant information, advice and support. To do this, just call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. You can find more details and opening hours here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

Hope this is helpful, Thembisile. Please do call our support line as they'll be able to give more specific advice for you.

Thanks,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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You obviously care a lot about your grandma. This is a hard situation. I'm 37, and I'm having trouble with it! The best thing I did was educate myself about what it means to have dementia. It's important to understand that the things your grandma is saying and doing are not truly what she wants to say or do. She has a disease that is affecting her brain. Treasure the memories you have of her before dementia. Know that those memories are who she really is, and now this disease is changing her brain. It is very sad. Whenever you can, tell her you love her. Ask your parents about what kind of dementia she has and learn more about it. I'm sure your parents are under a lot of stress too. This is such a difficult situation and you seem like a wonderful grandchild.

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My mum fell and broke her arm on 10th March. The orthopaedic doctor did not want to admit her as they were not going to operate just put her in collar and cuff. She was admitted anyway?? For 2 weeks we were unable to see her so phoned every day to see how she was. She was confused on days and it wasn’t until the second week she had been in that we were allowed to speak to her on the phone. Then we got a call to say we could go up as she was critical. She had caught pneumonia in hospital and I stayed with her through the night on Thursday 25th and Friday 26th then she passed away Saturday morning. We are so angry and hurt we could not see her for the 2 weeks and have now found out the hospital guidance is that a patient who has dementia and confusion should be allowed a visitor.
She went in with a broken arm and is now dead it was horrific what we saw and I feel so guilty for letting them admit her and not knowing how she was over those 2 weeks without us there.

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Wendy, we are so sorry to learn about your recent loss.

Our dementia advisers are here for you on 0333 150 3456. They're available seven days a week: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

You may also find it helps to talk with others who may have gone through or are going through similar experiences. If you think this would help, you can visit our online community, Talking Point, for peer support: https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/ It's free and open day or night.

Cruse Bereavement Care also offer support, advice and information when someone dies: https://www.cruse.org.uk/

Do call our support line if you need someone to talk to during this difficult time.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My grandmother has trouble doing daily activities,she usually doesn't recognize people and tends to say she wants to go home.It has been hard for my mom and if any one could give advice on what to do, that would be very helpful.

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Something I would like to say to all of you who have Dementia/Alzheimer's Disease that runs in the family as I do. Do everything you can to avoid getting this terrible disease in yourself. I know many doctors and non-doctors think it is unpreventable. But I have been doing a lot of research (googling and videos) and read a lot of how to potentially avoid this disease and others. Dr. Daniel Amen is one of my favorite resources. It's all about what we put into our bodies. It's a super healthy way of life. And if I am wrong, It's still a win, win because I will be healthier for it. Processed Refined Cane Sugar is a big problem. Also, for some great help on dealing with those that have the disease, I recommend Teepa Snow! She is a leading expert and I trust her.

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My mother has advanced dementia but still recognises us.
We have always been an extremely close-knit family. Despite the fact that she makes repetitive sounds a lot of the time, she sometimes says words very clearly such as "home" or "don't want to be here". It's heartbreaking to think she might feel we've abandoned her especially during lockdown when visiting is very limited if at all. Previously she had a minimum of 3 visits every day. My question is "should we consider taking her home and try to look after her ourselves". We all have jobs so it would be on a rota basis. She is wheelchair bound and needs help to do everything. My dad is his 80s. All I want is the best for her and for her to feel loved.

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My heart breaks for you. We have a similar situation with my mother. Both her and our step father moved from their own home to an independent living facility in October, 2020. Then they went into assisted living in December, quarantined for 2 weeks, then my stepfather had to get a blood transfusion, so 2 more weeks in quarantine, and then he passed away earlier this month. Now Mom is alone, her memory is failing, and none of us can visit except for 20 minutes once a week, with only 2 people. She's obviously scared and upset and wants to "go home." We've also talked about bringing her to one of our homes, but none of us are set up for that. The place she's staying is very nice, it's just that without company, I'm afraid she's going to go even deeper into the dementia world. Best of luck to you and your mom.

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Thank you for your reply. I'm so sorry to hear that your stepdad passed away recently and my heart goes out to your mom and you all. It's such a  dreadfully sad episode in our loved ones' lives and a time when they most need their family around them.  To be unable to provide the comfort they need, due to Covid-19, is so heartbreaking and the fear of them deteriorating further so worrying. My head tells me that my mam is getting the best care where she is but my heart is saying she needs to be with her family. Please God restrictions will be relaxed soon and we can all get to spend valuable time with our loved ones and wrap them in our love. I will never be able to repay the carers who look after my mam in her nursing home for being a surrogate family in our absence. I wish you all the best too.

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Hello Annamaria,

Thank you for sharing this. Would you be interested in telling us more about how things have been for you and your family within a blog article of your own? We'd particularly like to know about your feelings around the long-awaited reunion with your mam. If this sounds like something you'd like to do, please email [email protected] and we'll help you to get something written up.

Thanks in advance,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Trying to care for a loved one at home can be very problematic. My mother took care of my grandmother for 8 years with no help from her 4 siblings. It was a nightmare for her and flew off the handle many times. During this time she told my brother and I to promise to put her in a (nice) facility when the time came as to not burden us. My grandmother had make my mother promise to not but her in a facility (back then they were horrible) so my mother carried out her wishes but it nearly cause my mother a nervous breakdown. So a year after my father died, we realized that my mother could not live alone. I remembered her words and my promise to her and we placed her in a facility. Some years later I got a job as an Activity Coordinator in a different facility. I will tell you that facilities are also problematic. From the one I work at to the one my mother lives at. I hear similar stories about all of them. But for me, the bottom line is, I fulfilled my mothers wishes. I look after my residents like they are my parent the best I can. But I get to go home at the end of the day. For those that live with a failing loved one, it's torture for all involved.

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Wow, I desperately needed to read all your stories! My mom has been living with me for over two years, but has regressed quite quickly in the last couple of months. I finally reached breaking point, developing a floating embolism in my aorta and nearly dying myself (I am only 46).
My mom is very young, 66, but I simply could not look after her anymore. I felt like her lifeline, we were joined at the hip. She could not cope with not being next to me - physically. I understood that this would be hard, but I thought they were talking about incontinence, not recognizing people, battling to eat, becoming aggressive etc. but the valcro-affect (not sure about spelling) was just unbearable.

She has now been at a Frail Care facility for a month. Initially she coped fairly well, but keeps asking to leave with me. It breaks my heart! My eyes still well up nearly every time I leave her there, but I do know it is for the best. And I really appreciate reading this blog - knowing how devastatingly lonely it can be to look after a loved one with dementia - it's nice to know I am not alone.
I pray for each and every one of you, and your loved ones. May God grant peace and joy to every person, regardless of where they lay their heads tonight.

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Wow im going through this too ..but she lives at home with me ... Shes 77 ... Im 48 ! Ive worked in a memory care center for 25 years ... This is sooo hard when its your own family .... Im all by myself my brother has schizophrenic too so i have 2 big whams at once ... I wish you the best of luck ! Much luv

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Are you caring for your brother too? Sending hugs. We are all in this together. I find support groups very helpful. I too work in a Memory Care unit as an Activity Coordinator.

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I can empathize with you as I have similar relationships. My mom is three years older than yours is with dementia (and I am three years older than you) and my brother has schizophrenia. He is her primary caretaker bc he lives at home and I have my own family. It is very stressful to make sure she gets the care she needs. He is very stable with his medications. I worry all the time about my own two children and heritable conditions such as schizophrenia and AD.

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Both my parents had severe cognitive decline - re: the constant requests to "Go home" I would tell them that after their long hard working years they deserved to have people wait on them and help them and that is why they were moved. That always sermed to placate them. Also one time I drove them back to their house and let them wander around. After a bit Dad asked what we were doing there and seemed pleased to go back to the facility! Also an ice cream cone can sometimes do wonders... And the occasional Ativan (mild tranquilizer) can be very helpful.
God bless all you fellow carers! (Hugs)

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Thank you for your heart warming comment!! I have a 53 year old son in a care home, I brought him from another state to live with me after he had a stroke..Got to a point I could no longer care for him..I am raising 2 grandchildren and they are a handful..He is blind now and was put on a medication that I am reading is not good for dementia and he is so very distraught..I get to a helpless point, he is so dear to me and I am in such a depression and feel like I do not know where to turn..I am sure that many are feeling this way..Thanks for my being able to vent..

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Went through dementia with both my parents - draining and exhausting. Its so hard to make them content. You do what you reasonably can and forgive yourself for what you can't. One tip: its not what you SAY that they remember, but they will remember how you made them feel. And when they finally pass on, don't feel guilty about the relief you will experience (along with being sad that they are gone) God bless you!

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I'm an ordinary employee, one of the most ordinary nursing homes
I am not a medical professional, but I observe a picture of one of the old people constantly making sounds of an airplane and spinning in one place, I am very sorry for the poor man ... and I am worried about his mental state, although I am not a doctor

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Someone needs to try and engage him. Probably the Activity Dept. who should reach out to the family to find out more about him. His likes and dislikes etc. Someone needs to find out how to "get inside" his head.

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Hi my brother has been sent from hospital in early to a care home with no official diagnosis yet of dementia but an mra scan shows a lesion.

Since being admitted to hospital and the home he's started just wandering around into other residents rooms.
Is this a dementia problem?

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Hello Wendy, thanks for getting in touch.

For a person with dementia, walking about can be a common occurrence. We have a PDF factsheet available to download (https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/sites/default/files/2019-05/501lp-walking…) or you can visit our webpages on this topic: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/wal…

We'd also recommend calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 if you are seeking dementia information and advice. Our advisers are here for you: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

You may also benefit from talking with other people who have gone through or are going through similar experiences within our online community, Talking Point: https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/ It's free to use, and open day or night.

We hope this is helpful.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My husband is home with me. He has it in his head that he is not home and wants to go home. This is a house that we have lived in for 33 years. What am I supposed to tell him. he looks out the door and sees our neighbors houses and will know that he is home. When he goes back into the room he says that he wants to go home. This is not his home.

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My dad is doing the same thing. He’s lived in his house for 48 years. We will walk outside and look back at the house and he recognizes it as his. As soon as we’re back inside, he wants to go to his “other house”. We have the conversation numerous times per day. I wish I knew what to do. I explain to him that he’s lived here for 48 years and he says I’m lying.

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Dear Cheryl,

My mom has Lewy body dementia, I’ve never seen a more aggressive form of dementia in my life. In only a few months, my mom calls me the girl upstairs, but only me! She knows everyone else. Funny thing though, on the phone she knows me, it’s just when she sees my in front of her, she gets extremely confused. (With the other girls or a cousin)

My mother says the exact same thing, “I want to go to my other house”. I asked her to look outside and all the same neighbors. I asked,”did we take all our neighbors to this new house”? She laughs. She says that “I fixed this house the same as me as the other”!

The worse is when mom starts packing. I go downstairs and shopping bags are full of paper, remote controls, phones, everything she needs... I finally find in her to go bags.

We never thought of ever sending mom into an adult care facility, we cared for my grandmother for a long while, till her passing. But this Lewy body dementia surpasses grandmas dementia, by far. Having a husband waiting to be placed on transplant list, being disabled myself, I just can’t do this by myself any longer. It’s all killing me at a fast pace.

I truly don’t think mom being by herself, I see and talk to her several times, all day long..... but, actually being alone all day, when not with me, is it fair to mom? She could be in a mice place , right near home, so I can visit every day. (As long as COVID restrictions are lifted). I can take her out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. She’ll socialize and make friends, crafts, outings and shopping. She’ll be happier and healthier. Being here is holding her back from living the rest of her life with those who understand, more than I.

I cried many times about this decision, but then thought about the whole picture. I think about how much fun the residents have, making things with each other, even entertainment! Everything mom loves.

So, I got the application and I’m almost finished. I have just a couple more questions to answer.

I’m 53. Five shoulder surgeries from carrying grandma in my arms, I never regret and would do it all again. But, I truly feel happy with this decision and mom seems ok with it. Even got her the only first floor room, afraid of elevators. They accommodate for her diabetes, special diets.

There comes a time in our lives where we truly have to trust our Heavenly Father and leave our most precious in His hands.

With love and gentle thoughts ......

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I work at an assisted living facility and during in-services we are taught to say things like: Your house is under construction (be creative as to why, maybe a pipe burst or something), Another one is... We are expecting a storm, I have a room for you to stay in tonight and you can go back home as soon is it's safe. This is called THERAPEUTIC LYING, and it works much of the time. I am a person who is not comfortable with lying but I found this THERAPY helpful. They are not in your reality, they are in theirs and there is nothing you can do to change it. So you may a well settle them down any way you can.

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Thanx so much for this advice and information about Therapeutic Lying👍 This is so helpful to me when responding to mum who has gone into a care home as she is moving into the advanced dementia stage. I have been her full time carer for the past 4 years and I was finding it difficult to find ways to tell her that this was now her new home and that she couldnt come away with me at the end of the visit. I was struggling with my Buddhists ethics of truthful communication with being kind and compassionate to mum at the same time. This has opened up a whole new area of dementia care for me to explore and allows me to find new and creative ways of responding to mum during this next stage of her journey. It also helps me to process my feelings of guilt around this issue, reduces my anxiety, thus allowing me to tap into what I call MumsWorld. Lots of love to all you wonderful caregivers out there. Diane🙏🌈🌹

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I have the same problem with my husband. Everyday all I hear is ,are u ready to go, I'm goin home, everyday,all day. Its hard to get him to agree to come back in our house after we have been somewhere. So stressed out,

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Going home they say is not a house or the last one they had. It could maybe be a childhood one or their last one they lived in. Also it’s not current time but all the memories of the past that they want/remember. days when they were younger, healthier. Like asking where her mom is and she’s been gone 30 yrs. House torn down yes ago, siblings deceased. Have to try not to figure it out just go along. YOU CAN NOT EXPLAIN, impossible! Love them where they are and treasure the old memories. Happened to my MOM, Aunt, another aunt and my now with husband PD with some dementia. Im doing good but diagnosed with MCI. Just take a day at a time, don’t take things personally and pray for wisdom and peace. Focus and remember the good times. God bless you

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Home is whatever they remember from the past. Childhood, 1st home. maybe not a home but familiar things they loved from the past. A lot of patients pack up to go home everyday. maybe not their last home but one they loved and a great time of life for them.

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I’ve been reading all the stories from so many people and I recognise the same issues. My husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2017 but he was having memory losses for a long time prior to the diagnosis. He is 73. He has gradually forgotten who our friends are and more recently he has forgotten who our daughter, son in law and grandchildren are. He doesn’t really know who I am and often asks if I’m married, or where I live. This is hard and upsetting for our family. I understand the illness and have found patience I didn’t know I possessed. He gets obsessed with going into town for something each morning but he doesn’t know what he’s going for and doesn’t understand lockdown. Every morning I divert and distract. It’s like Groundhog Day. The most upsetting thing for me is that he’s recently started one day a week at a memory loss centre where there are several very frail people who are more advanced in their illness. My husband still looks fit and ‘young’ and I have had to be very strong when he resists going in but comes out later in a really happy frame of mind. When the familiar and satisfying shared married relationship changes to Carer instead of Wife, it becomes a lonely place no matter how much help is available from family, friends and services. Thank you all for telling your stories and thank you for reading mine. It feels reassuring to know I’m not alone.

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I don't understand my mom know my name and she know her name, l am taking my mom lot's and talking like fairy tales

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Her brain is malfunctioning. Nothing you do or say will change that. Just go to her world and try to make that world as pleasant as possible.

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