People with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairing diseases often say, “I want to go home.”
My father who is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s keeps saying, “I want to go home.” Then he starts walking out the door. How do we handle this situation?
Needing to “go home” means different things to people with Alzheimer’s.
It could mean his childhood home where he was comforted when he was afraid or hurt.
It could mean his early adulthood home that he shared with your mother.
He could also be feeling lost today and yearning for the comfort he remembers of his earlier years. As the disease destroys more of his brain cells, the reality of his existence — what he “sees” and “feels” often blurs.
Three steps to help your father feel better about “going home.”
- Learn about where “home” is for him. Encourage him to talk about “home.”
- Assure him that you will help him to return home. Walk with him and invite him to describe his home. Let him lead the way. Or take a drive and ask him to give you directions. Finish the trip with a fun outing for ice cream or tea or coffee with dessert).
- Supporting him in his quest to “go home” will comfort him because he knows he has an ally in his attempt to go home.
As the disease continues taking away pieces of your father, he will progress through this stage and forget about needing to go home.
Until then, my heart goes out to you.
* My father’s desire to go home was so great, he “escaped” and was found walking along the freeway in the Mojave Desert. The story is told in “Where’s my shoes?” in The Great Escape chapter.
For additional info, click on and read:
How can I handle my mother when she has hallucinations while saying she wants to “go home”?