How to Respond to Seniors Asking to Leave Their Care Setting?

Many seniors with dementia go through a stage of “wanting to go home,” and wanting to leave their care home. The desire to and efforts made to “go home” can be overwhelming to all involved.  If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, it could be that your loved one has followed a typically progression of the disease and he or she  believes they are in their early adulthood or even childhood.   They might be looking for deceased parents or a spouse and think these familiar people can be found “at home.”  Your loved one might be looking to feel like they once felt in their own home when they were younger – safe, loved, energetic and optimistic.

Here are a few tips on how to handle seniors with dementia wanting to leave their Residential Care Home

  • WARNING - Don’t try to tell your loved one that “this is now your home.” If they don't recognize it as “home” at that moment, then he or she will never accept your answer as the truth and you risk agitating them.
  • DIVERT ATTENTION - Try going out for a short walk, or a drive.  Sometimes, upon coming back in the door, it may look like home again for a short period. Engage your loved one in a household chore such as folding laundry, looking up recipes for a holiday party, or tearing coupons from the paper.   This might cause them to forget about going home for a while.
  • Look at old family photos or pictures from their childhood or high school yearbooks. Persons with dementia generally love to reminisce and reminiscing is a great distraction and anxiety reducer.
  • Physical touch such as a hug, kisses on the cheek, a neck and shoulder or hand massage helps provide those feelings of feeling safe and loved that they may be seeking.
  • Settings that look and feel just like "home" also help.  This is why residential care homes are such great environments for seniors with dementia.

If you follow some of these tips, you should be able to temporarily stop your loved one from repeatedly asking to leave.