When Your Loved One Can’t Go Home

Due to the nature of their health conditions, elders who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s are most often required to stay in a Memory Care facility. While this can be understandably difficult for family members, it can also be quite difficult for the elder as well, since they probably will not be able to understand why they are there and why they can’t go home when they want to. As you know, both Alzheimer’s and dementia are illnesses that affect memory; so how do you handle it when someone who cannot go home asks to do just that?

This is a rather common issue and there are some ways to help you deal with it. First, the best way is to face it, not avoid it. Some who do the latter wind up feeling very anxious when visiting their loved ones. It can be very painful for them to have to remember that they can’t bring their loved one home. So let’s see some ways that you can deal with the situation:

  • Never tell them they “live here” at the facility now. 

This can stir up all sorts of anxiety for those suffering from dementia—especially if they think they still live at home. Instead, just let them know that they “have an apartment to stay there whenever they want.” Or you could say that they are only staying there until their ______ (insert body part) is healed properly.

You may also say that they are only staying at the facility to receive some extra help for a time, or until the bad weather lets up. Even saying they are there for their regular doctor’s visit could help lessen the questions. Then, when the patient asks if they can go home, or when they are going home, say that they may be going home within the next couple days. It is beneficial to avoid saying an exact amount of time, however. For instance, saying they are going home “tomorrow,” may, on an off-chance, cause them to remember that you said “tomorrow.”

If they ask why they cannot go home right away, you can say something to the effect of:

  • “Your house had a leaky pipe and we’re fixing it.”
  • “We wanted to help you make new friends, so we’re introducing you to the people here.”
  • They’re painting your bedroom at home, so you can’t go home just yet.

There is a plethora of answers that you can give that will help your loved one understand that he or she must stay at the facility. Remember, this is  about your loved one and how they feel, so you need to be delicate with this situation.

Keep in mind, however, that you are a trigger for your loved one. When he or she sees that you’ve come to visit, they may get concerned about going home since you obviously remind them of being home. Being able to provide the best answer to your loved one’s specific question will greatly help the situation and avoid unnecessary hardship.

Remember that because of the illness, they don’t understand why they are there, and they may continually ask questions even after you’ve given them the best answers you can. It’s important that you stay strong, as hard as that can be, and know that no matter what, your loved one needs to be at the facility in order to get the best care they can.