“I want to go home.”
Those words… those heartbreaking words were the ones I hated to hear the most. My sister’s house was sold 6 months ago to take care of her medical bills and prepare for her long-term care. I had told her before that the house is gone. She cried. She screamed and threw the tv remote at me. She said she would never forgive me.
Then she forgot. Two days later, she wanted to go home again.
Are you caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? Do you hear these words every day, and does your heart-break as well?
I finally learned how to deal with it, and though it may not always work, and may not work in your case, it gives me something to do instead of feeling frustrated and terribly hopeless.
You see, I finally realized that when Tracy said she wanted to go home, she was simply expressing a desire to feel comfortable again. Her perception of ‘home’ changed continually, and what I pictured in my mind – two bedrooms, a bath with a clawfoot tub, and the small deck on the back with the rickety third step – was not necessarily what was in her mind. She just wanted to find a place that seemed familiar to her in that moment.
What made everything worse for Tracy was trying to reason with her. I would tell her she couldn’t leave; that she wasn’t well and I needed to take care of her in my home. I would tell her house was gone. I would tell her I loved her and I thought she would be happy staying with me. But with her dementia, she wasn’t able to reason. All she wanted to do was to go.
So one day, at the end of my rope, I snapped. I pulled out her suitcase and helped her pack. She put in a strange combination of items; six pairs of shoes, a sweater (it was summer), two magazines, and her pillow. Zipping the suitcase closed, she declared she was ready to go.
We got in the car, and I started to drive her around the neighborhood. I didn’t know what I was going to do. But in short order, she became calm. Her eyes sparkled as she clutched her seat belt, and she leaned slightly forward in her seat. We chatted for a bit about the weather, and the she did something that surprised me.
“Turn here,” she said. “Here!”
I did. We went several blocks until the street ended. When she didn’t say anything, I turned left.
No reaction from Tracy; just a pleasant smile and sparkling eyes.
A few moments later, she gave me more direction, and I followed her orders. We meandered, crossing over some streets several times, and she didn’t seem to notice. Tired of the charade, I started making my way back to my house, when she directed me again.
Coincidentally, her directions agreed with mine. We approached my house, and she said, “Here! Stop here!”
I pulled into my driveway.
Some days we end up at the park. Some days we end up at a friend’s house or my mother’s house across town. Not all days end perfectly, but overall my relationship with Tracy has become more amicable. She’s less agitated and seems to be more at ease, and seems to know somehow that when she wants to go somewhere that feels like home, I’m ready to take her.