My father keeps asking to go home. What do we tell him? ? | Chicago, Illinois Elder Law Attorney Anthony B. Ferraro
When your father or any loved one starts to ask about home, someone could drive them past a previous home, even from childhood. Often, he will not recognize the old house because a house and a home are two different things. That’s why it is best to make him feel safe and secure, regardless of wherever he is. To most people, “home” is a place where we feel loved and accepted — and safe. So the best way to answer your question is to think about the word “home” and what it signifies. Depending on where he is with memory loss, your father might be conjuring thoughts of a childhood home with his parents and siblings. Or the home where he was first married, the kids were young or any time before, after or in between He might be living in the same home he’s been in for 20 or 30 years and still ask to go home. Due to the nature of Alzheimer’s, your dad is likely feeling insecure, fearful, even unlovable. Please pay close attention to this next point: It is not your fault. He is dwindling a bit, day-by-day, and he is frightened. Fear can drive many emotions, not the least of which are insecurity, anxiety, anger and low self-esteem. Your father needs to feel safe. If he doesn’t carry good feelings about himself, he probably doesn’t feel he can be loved by anyone. Remember that the most important thing to realize is you need to constantly validate his feelings. Instead of telling him he is home, tell him simply that he is in a safe place and that he is loved very much. You can tell him, for example, “Dad, you’ll be staying with me and Anthony for a while. We’re happy you’re here and we love you.” Reminiscing about his childhood and looking back at his life and life accomplishments also should make him feel good about himself and decrease negative feelings. Because Alzheimer’s patients typically have short-term memory loss, he will nonetheless continue to ask about “home.” Repeat over and over that he is in a safe place and loved very much. Giving hugs throughout the day will truly say much more than words. A hug produces feelings of love, acceptance and security — three big concepts that continually need addressing. For more information regarding how to treat a loved one with Alzheimer’s, click here.