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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My wife has Dementia and she also says this all the time. It's, home, is pretty much where she feels would be a safe, comfortable place at that time, I believe. I don't really know but I've asked her if that would be with Jesus and she says yes and then I'll ask if that's where her family is and she'll say yes. You just try to keep them happy. Of course that isn't easy. She can make life hard on us, her daughter lives with us now to help out. , when she is in that frustrating place . That's when home is going to the store, it's hard to go anywhere because she wants to go. She doesn't have a clue as to what COVID-19 is, nor does she care, but the fact is she has a really hard time walking. She doesn't like her walker and won't use it. This is all so hard. She has recently been diagnosed with stomach cancer and been given 6 months to a year. I'm sitting here writing this with a catheter in me with a bag that leaks. It just keeps getting worse. But what do we do. we keep plugging along and love her to the end. With her repetitive questions, "what are you doing" , "where are you going", & "I wanna go home" and walking around with her purse aready in case someone goes somewhere. If a stranger comes to the door she'll ask him when he leaves if she can go with him. It drives us crazy but we Love Her. And I know all to well, when she's not here I will miss her greatly.

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My mom has dementia, i been taken care of her for 8 years all by myself with 2 brothers and 3 sisters no help, my father passed away 7 years ago, everyday she pack her clothes and cried to go home with him it breaks my heart i tell her daddy home watch over you then we talk i show her pictures and she remember for 5 minutes and again she wants to go home i calm her down and tell her mom lets go watch TV we go to the room, i look at her and she crying that she's scare for me to sleep with her i do until she fall asleep, she is bound to a wheelchair, if it not raining i take her out she loves that ( i push her in the wheelchair ) no car.. I love my mom.
No Nursery Home. Is Big Enough For Her.
All i need is prayers. Thank You.

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Know that I am praying for the two of you everyday. I will also pray that your siblings find a way to share in the care and enjoyment of being with your mom. Remember to take care of you too.

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My parents are in memory care in a wonderful facility. My dad calls me regularly and tells me he wants to go home. He means his home where he lived. I try to tell him he is in the best place for them. I tell him when he was home he was falling and lonely without my mom. He still insists on wanting to go home. Today he said is this where we are going to be forever? I said yes. He was upset and it made me sad. I wish I had the right words to help him through this transition.

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My wife goes on walk abouts, My daughter picks her up when I ring and tell her..But my daughter takes her to their house and keeps her there for days I think for spite when I want my wife home, what on earth can I do?

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Hello Bill,

Thanks for getting in touch. This sounds like a very difficult and upsetting situation. We would recommend calling the Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 and speak with a dementia adviser. They can listen to the current situation between you, your wife and your daughter, and provide information and support: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

You may also benefit from our online community, Talking Point. People affected by dementia, including carers and family members, share their experiences and insight. You can ask questions of the community, or just read what other people have to say: https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/

In the meantime, in case it is useful, our advice on walking about is available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/wal…

We hope this is helpful for now, Bill.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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I managed to get my mum In care home in August,due to covid I can't visit. Apparently she is not settled and won't socialize,I feel so guilty and sad because wants to go home. Not sure where sure where she thinks home is as she stays with me for a while,when her partner was in hospital

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How did you manage to get your mom into a care home and how long did it take?

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She was booked in by social services for 22nd August for respite care ,because her partner was going into hospital. He went in 10 days early so she stayed with us for those 10 days. She had to have a covid test ( negative ) so they accepted her on 22nd, but had to quarantine for 14 days in the home . I then had to get social services to do a mental capacity test on her,all was completed by 9th October . Hope this helps

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My mom is packing to move. She has taken everything off the walls stuffed drawers with things that were in the kitchen and on dressers. I can’t explain that she is home and it is hard to find her clothes with this “moving” mode.

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My Mother is 69. Diagnosed with Dementia several yrs ago. She also went thru the packing bags and her purse with everything but the kitchen sink! Every day she took with her bags of clothes, yarn, towels, books, etc. We couldn't ever find anything! Sometimes the house phone and TV remote! She doesn't do this anymore. She has declined and all she really knows is this... " when she gets her shoes on, she's READY to go! But she doesn't go in anywhere due to COVID but her favorite things to do is ride, listen to old music, and eat Cheeseburgers & M&M's. It still holds true, "if Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy!" At this point she eats whatever she wants! Even tho she may say she's not hungry, she's hungry! These days, no means yes. :( it's unreal this mean disease needs a cure. Blessings to all caregivers and your patients and patience!

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My mother asks every night to go home although she lives in her bungalow with my brother, she thinks my brother is either her mother or my father both have died, it is quite heartbreaking and I don’t know how to answer her without always saying mam this is your home, look that’s your settee that’s your tv etc she gets very upset and tells me to stop lying and to get her coat and take her home, it’s even starting in the daytime now I just want advice on how to deal with this the proper way and not for her to feel scared thank you

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Hi Christine,

We'd recommend calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 for advice, information and emotional support. Our dementia advisers are here to listen and provide support when you need them: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

Some people also find it helps to talk with other people who 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/

We hope this is helpful, Christine.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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I work for a Careline, and we have no real training in how to deal with these particular clients.
I do have a few that call from the moment they carers leave till they arrive again. So this was really informative. If you have any other tips in how I can verbally reassure them over the life line that would be great

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I've been caring for my 87 yr old mother several years....with Dementia and Parkinson's etc. I've experienced all the mentioned things I've read on here so far. My sister would sometimes drive mama around the neighborhood and point, say and name places "on the way home". We wrote her address down and gave her some keys on a keychain to hold. She'd carry it around all night.
This does usually occur when very anxious (not secure). My mother would walk a million miles all night long sometimes downstairs, only to be in delirium in the morning a lot. I'm just suggesting that someone may want to get them to a geriatric psychiatrist.....as they prescribed a very small dose of Remeron for at night. Now it doesn't make everything go away, and there is no cure, but I saw a quick improvement within the first week and then two. She was more alert and more in the here and now, and started sleeping first third of the night and then like the last third of the night till morning. There are a lot more "scenarios" could mention--- The Remeron did help with her anxiety and the agitation etc. She even got up to wash dishes one morning. I'd suggest this instead of some of the anti-psychotic drugs that some people get for them (I read and read and read and researched for anything and everything. One doctor said that magnesium and vitamin C together helps neurotransmitters in the brain. I did not get a chance to start that........as my mama went to heaven 3 days ago. Father God will now take care of her for me, but I feel VERY lost and MISS her, as tending to her is all I've known many years. I know it's ALL "challenging" ....to say that is mild......just go RIGHT NOW and squeeze your loved one and tell them how much you love them!

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I think when my husband asks to go home he is feeling unsafe. I try to reassure him he is in a safe place. I take about how and why we are in a safe place. It seems to calm him. Also sometimes I take him for a ride and it resets his sense of location.
This works sometimes not always of course. I don't believe we make our loved ones feel unsafe, but their confusion makes them feel that way. Understandably!

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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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I’ve been told not to try to convince them of anything that is not happening. My Dad is asking to go home and the nurse told me to say, its up to the Dr., but it won’t be today. You need to stay here tonight.

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My Father has dementia and it is heartbreaking. Its getting harder and harder to redirect the conversation when he asks to go home. . I’ve learned to ask questions about his childhood in the farm where he thinks his parents are still living. If people have depression all their lives they still need antidepressants to the person whose taking care if the person that had no interest in anything but going home. A Geriatric Psychiatrist should do an evaluation. Medication can help tremendously. I’ve been reading up on the disease and it really is heartbreaking what a dementia patient and their family gors through. They are lost and confused.

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It was so heartening to read this just now...sometimes I feel like I'm all a lone with the situation I'm dealing with....this is exactly what I'm going through with my Dad. He asks to go home everyday and is very determined and difficult to redirect.. He currently is in an assisted living home but they have decided its time I move him to memory care facility....this is going to be the hardest transition...I have so much anxiety about this ..... he's so clear sometimes about going home I'm afraid at some point things will turn and he'll feel I'm not trying to help him....
As cruel as this sounds....sometimes I just want the phone to stop ringing with his number...

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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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Thank you, I will try this the only problem is my mom always wants to go home when we are getting ready for bed.

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During the last year with demebtia getting so much worse, my mother constantly wants to "go home". My family has provided 24/7 care to keep her at home, where she has owned and lived happily for 33 years. Sometimes she says she has 4 homes, sometimes she says her home is across the street. I tried one time, getting her in my car teying to find "her house". We drove down every street and could not find it. I pulled into her house and i said "here it is. We found your house Mom!" Parked, walked around to her side of car and she refused to get out of the car saying she didnt know who lived here and she would not go in. So i pulled up her lawn chair that she loves and we chatted for an hour and she finally agreed to go in and use the bathroom. Didnt solve anything. Worse evwry day. We feel keeping her in her home is tormenting her and we are not trained nor emotionally equipped to help her and we end up drained becauae she is constantly mad at us and most of the time thinks of us as mean people, not even her family. If not for covid, she would be in a memory care home getting the professional help she needs

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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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