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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215 comments

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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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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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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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My mom have a symptom of dimentia always asking to go back home in the philippnes where my dad lives but the lroblem is she accused my dad havina a thied party how could be together in one house that shes mad with my dad?

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We put my dad in assisted living in March. We have not been able to visit him at all due to covid-19. He's been there about two and a half months now. He seemed to start to adjust but the last 10 days he has had to wear a mask due to a staff worker testing positive for covid-19.
We talked to him everyday by phone. He is becoming irate and wants to go home. He says he is going to walk out of there and yells at us on the phone. I don't know what to expect the first time we are able to go visit him, whenever that will be??

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My dad has been I a resedential care home hor 8weeks. He tells people this is not my new home and I am not staying here forever.

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I don't know where to turn with my question, the home I work in has told family members of a dementia suffer to stay away because it upsets there mum. Myself I think this is so so wrong but what can I do.

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Hi Jennie, thanks for getting in touch.
You may benefit from speaking with one of dementia advisers for information and advice. They will listen to your situation and provide you with 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)
We hope this helps, Jennie.
-
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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my mother law went to home because we. could not cope with her behaviour for 4 weeks, the social worker says the mil does not want to talk to us anymore, she has capacity , wants all her belonging taken to home, the home staff have been told not to speak to us about her well being, we have tried to reason with the social worker, nothing, they have asked us to send all her belongings and her bank cards etc, it’s week 5 and we cannot get any where age uk no response, alziemers uk no response, citizen advice, say we should have the mil re assessed by the social worker.
waste of time.

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Hi there Ian,
Thanks for getting in touch.
We’re really sorry to hear about all the challenges you and your family are facing. It sounds like you’ve been going through a very difficult time.
As the situation you’ve described is quite complex, we have sought advice from one of our Knowledge experts who specialises in Legal and Welfare Rights:

‘This is really tricky, as if anyone has capacity, they can decide for themselves who they wish to see or not wish to see. Therefore, if your mother-in-law does have the ability to make this decision (mental capacity) then this is her decision to make and she is within her rights to say she doesn’t want to see certain family, and no one can be forced to see someone they don’t want to see.

‘The only way you would legitimately be able to challenge this is on the grounds of your mother-in-law’s ability to make the decision for herself. This is as if she doesn’t have the mental capacity to make the decision then it is not her decision to make – instead it will a decision made in her best interests.

‘Therefore, if you feel that mum lacks capacity to make the decision then her capacity needs to be tested, or retested if they disagree with an assessment.

‘You should ask the social worker to retest this, and depending on the outcome of the request you could then, if needed, put in a complaint.

‘The complaint would be on the basis that your mother-in-law lacks mental capacity to make this decision and so she cannot make the decision. You can mention Article 8 rights here – the right to family life and how your mother-in-law and you have this right and it should be protected. Do note that Article 8 can be overridden in some cases, for example if it is inappropriate for you to see her as it causes severe distress for her, and as we have seen Article 8 has been breached during the coronavirus and this has been allowed due to public safety.

‘As said, that’s if you believe your mother-in-law lacks capacity to make the decision herself. If she has capacity, it is her choice who she sees and this should be respected.

‘Therefore, the first step is to look at her capacity and have this tested if you believe she lacks it to make this decision.’

We hope this is helpful, Ian.
Wishing you the best of luck.
-
Alzheimer’s Society blog team

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The social worker has now requested her bank statements bank cards, and the land registerary details, the mil, purchased the chalet 2013, the chalet ownership was split 50./50 with her granddaughter, on the understanding that we provided all the maintenance requirements. She lived thr holiday park for 7 months a year of the year.
Now that the Mil is in a home she will still discuss or speak with us and we can only assume she wants to give the chalet to pay for her care.
We’re do we stand on this, can social services just sell the property without taking into consideration the joint ownership

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Hi Ian,

Thanks for getting back in touch.

As this is a complex situation, it might be better to speak to one of our dementia advisers for more tailored information, advice and support. They will be able to talk through your situation and hopefully see where you stand on the above.

You can call the Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. There are some more details on the support line (including opening hours) here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

Hope this is helpful,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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They can't do it I'm in that situation by law no one can stop visits I'm taking legel action against the home as well as fighting my friends right s report them to CQC I did and sociel ombudsman

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I don’t live with my parents, my mother will call me and put my father on and he keeps going on about another home. I tell him the other home is be renovated to make it nice for him. I told my mother to hide the car keys and just had a chat with him and lied and said I took them home by mistake and will bring them back the next time I’m there. I’m at a loss, I’m afraid he is going to wonder off! My father is 90 and my mom is 85 and she is really getting very frazzled every time he starts this. I don’t know where to turn. I called a doctor and had video call since he was not taking patients at the moment due to covid -19. He made a prescription for two medications and recommended vitamins as well. Now I’m not sure he is going to take them. I’m so frazzled myself.

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Hello Michael,
We're sorry to hear this - it sounds like a really difficult time for you and your parents.
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, Michael.
-
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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What do you say when the person is in their own home but they don’t recognize it and keep insisting they want to go home?

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When mum says she wants to go home,
I tell her this is home in the nursing home,
Mum goes this is not home, at 94,
Not matter how much I say it ,everyone has different levels of dementia so don’t think for one second my mum I knows
Where she is , I
I have worked in nursing homes for over
10 years ,
Yes we all get old , but you need to respect what someone says ,
I tell mum there is no one at home now
And you need help to get tea and dressed
It helps mum understand , as for saying
You can go home tomorrow ,
I think is so dishonest, and cruel
I go see mum everyday , and I love her so much , the time I spend with mum is so special,
I would not be on earth only for her and Dad of course , love ya mum

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It is not cruel to tell them you are going home tomorrow. My mother would scream take me home. If I explain things, she does not understand. When I say I am taking you home tomorrow she would calm down. Then the next day, she would forget. That’s dementia

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My mother lives in the same apartment she has lived in for over 15 years yet she constantly wants "to go home." So if you have a parent in a facility wanting to go home, you don't have to feel guilty. It's really not a matter of where they are, it is, I think, a feeling of wanting everything to feel familiar.

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Thank you , brenda

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