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Monthly thoughts on the importance of culture change. 

I Wanna Go HOME!

By Charliss Marshall, former Nursing Home Administrator

Home—Once when I was young (long ago), a pastor was giving his Sunday sermon and even though I can’t remember much about the actual sermon, I do remember him relating a story about a little girl during the depression whose family had lost their residence due to her father’s loss of work. Someone said to her, “I’m sorry you lost your home and she replied, “Oh we didn’t lose our home, we just lost the house we kept it in.”


Why that story sticks in my head is not clear but, through the years, as I engage with folks who are living with dementia, I realize that one of the things they don’t forget is “home”, and what that means to them. Although their current situation may be a new residence or it may be where they have lived for the past several years, saying I want to go “home” doesn’t necessarily mean they are looking for the dwelling, but for the things that made “home” what they are searching for, a place where they feel safe and loved and important.


Using logic at this time is frequently not successful because their definition of home is often a request for comfort rather than literally asking to go home. Meeting them where they are, focusing on comfort and reassurance and responding to the emotions driving the request, are going to bring you closer to calming their anxiety and their fears. Sometimes fear, discomfort, pain or a physical need is causing this behavior. Be cognizant of anything unusual in their normal behaviors – more frequent urination for example, and possible need to notify the physician.


Sometimes “I want to go home” is their way of saying they are tense, anxious, scared or in need of extra comfort. By approaching them in a calm, soothing and relaxed manner, it often helps them to feel understood and supported. Often, using logic when someone has a brain disease will only serve to make them more upset, insistent and agitated. It makes them feel like you aren’t listening, don’t care, or that you are preventing them from doing something that is important to them. Take time to validate and redirect-- let them know they are important and that you are taking their concern seriously. It is a skill that improves with practice, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work perfectly the first few times or if it doesn’t work every time. Show them you are listening and agreeing with them— be a supportive, caring friend--meanwhile, gently distracting them and redirecting them to something else, by staying calm, flexible and creative. Help them feel they can put their home in the place where they are currently residing.


**This article is the intellectual property of Charliss Marshal, used by NECCC with permission.

You are invited to share or reproduce this article with attribution.

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