I Want to Go Home

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I Want to Go Home

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house.svg.med"I want to go home."

You hear the words when you visit your caree in the nursing home or at your home in the afternoon when your caree's confusion increases or on sad days when your caree just longs for a life that's gone.

Five small words that feel like a dagger in the heart.

How do you answer? Some ideas to help you form your answer:

1. The temptation may be to stop the words before they come out. You might hope to do this by trying to control the conversation or trying to end the visit before the words are spoken. Trying to avoid the words only means the emotion behind the words gets bigger and bigger. Let the words come--and the emotions that accompany them. You both are strong enough to hear the words.

2. It's sooo hard not to take these words personally. You may feel you stand between your caree and his or her home. You don't. Do your best to hear the words as simply the expression of emotion rather than judgments against you.

3. Ask what your family member misses about home. What is his or her favorite memory? Which room was the favorite? How did he or she pick the house? What did the house look like on the day he or she moved in? Reminiscing can comfort both a caree with a cognitive impairment and one without.

4. Bring those elements about what he or she loved about the home into the caree's current home. Decorate the room with favorite knick knacks, photos and memorabilia.

5. Let your caree feel the pain. Your presence in allowing him or her to feel and express pain can be very powerful. You can offer words of comfort like, "I understand how hard this is. I so wish you were home, too. What can I do to help?"

6. Cope with your own pain. Talk out your guilt with your support group and family members and friends. You'll feel better getting your guilt out.

7. If your caree has a cognitive impairment, the wish to go home can seem like a demand and directive. And, that's intimidating. Remember it often is not about missing today's home, but about a desire to return to the past. You may have to test out answers before you find the one that works. You might say, "You'll be safe here tonight. We'll work out going home tomorrow." Or, "I'll do my best to help. Let's get a cup of coffee and a snack (or lunch or dinner) and talk about this." These kinds of redirects can take your caree's focus off home and on to something else.

8. Don't argue. You might want to say, "You are home." This may or may not work. And, if you argue, you lock horns with a bull that's bigger than you. If your attempts to handle the situation aren't working and you find yourself about to enter into an argument, simply step away. Getting a drink of water or some fresh air outside may help you regain your composure.

If your caree resides in a nursing home, you can ask the facility social worker for suggestions on how to handle the talk of home. If your family member resides in the memory care unit, the unit's director can be a resource for you. It can feel so unsettling to hear a question that you can't quite answer. The facility staff will have experience and ideas that can help. And, they'll remind you that you are not alone as you work through these situations.

How do you answer your caree's request to go home? Please share your solutions in our comments section, below.

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