How to Respond When Someone with Dementia Says “I Want to Go Home”

One of the most common requests made by people with dementia is, “I want to go home!” This request may be repeated over and over, and unfortunately it doesn’t help to remind them that they already are home.

Senior Woman Consoling Husband At Home

Typically, people with dementia ask to “go home” when they are feeling unsure or uncomfortable in their surroundings. If you are caring for someone with dementia, there are some helpful steps you can take to put your loved one at ease when they ask to go “home.”

1. Check for distress

Observe your loved one’s facial expression, body language, and emotional state.

  • If they are distressed, rule out any underlying causes – pain, hunger, thirst, boredom, or need for the restroom – and address those first.
  • If they are not distressed, remember that because of their memory loss, the environment feels unfamiliar. Show the person through body language and familiarity that they are in the “right” place.

2. Avoid contradictions

Help your loved one feel safe and familiar through affirmation, rather than by trying to correct them.

  • Stay away from explaining to someone with dementia that they are home, or that they are in their new home. Similarly, don’t try to explain why home isn’t an option.

3. Engage the senses

Help your loved one relax by creating a positive environment, and focusing less on explanations.

  • Smell: Use aromatherapy – Jasmine, lavender, and lemon are popular scents.
  • Sound: Play your loved one’s favorite music.
  • Sight: Look at familiar things that are enjoyable to your loved one such as pictures, imagery, or the view out the window.
  • Touch: Show support through physical touch – hold hands, or place your hand on their shoulder. Try introducing interesting textures such as folding laundry, holding papers, playing with a pet.

4. Identify patterns

Start a log to notice trends and triggers.

  • Does your loved one say “I want to go home” this around the same time every day? Try doing an enjoyable, structured activity at that time of day before they begin to verbalize this request.
  • Track effective topics of conversation and interventions and have them ready when you need them.

5. Stay confident

When one intervention is ineffective, simply try a new intervention and try not to be discouraged.
Be sure to answer each question as if it is the first time it is being asked. You may need to repeat the same response several times, but saying, “I already told you” will only further break down communication.

6. Seek advice

Remember that there are professionals who can help. Schedule a consultation with Seniors At Home’s dementia care experts to discuss and brainstorm interventions that support positive engagement with your loved one.

To schedule a family consultation with the Seniors At Home Center for Dementia Care, call 415-449-3700 or contact us online.

Other resources about dementia:

5 Tips for Starting a Conversation with a Loved One with Dementia

How Seniors can Boost Brain-Health

6 Tips for Finding Excellent Dementia Care at Home

New Study Reveals the First Sign of Alzheimer’s and It Might Surprise You