Appropriate communication


My husband always “wants to go home.” He has been living in our home that we’ve shared and owned for 30 years. However, night after night he tries to pack his bag to go “home.” I try patiently to explain that we are home. It doesn’t help. He just becomes agitated.

Answer: For so many people with Alzheimer’s disease, “going home” means “feeling normal.” It is a place where they can feel comfort and security. Their world is confusing and frustrating. They just want to simplify their life and feel safe and loved.

As caregivers we are tempted to explain that their parents are deceased and home is here. That makes us feel better, but doesn’t help your loved one at all. It will only sadden your husband to hear the facts, over and over. Instead, answer the question with compassion. Get into his world (trend of thought) and then “redirect” his thoughts and energy. For instance, you might take him for a ride to go get ice cream; you might take him for a walk outside, looking at the beautiful flowers in your garden; or you might say, “We will go, but first let’s fold laundry.” Any wholesome activity will do. It will redirect him in a soothing, compassionate manner.

9-21 Page 4A.inddBonnie,

My mama wants to set the table each night for all of her five children and her husband, and she wants to cook dinner for them as well. She still seems to think her children are young and will be coming home from school, and that her husband will be coming home from work. In fact her other children are all married with their own families and her husband is deceased. Setting the table and cooking a lot of food is just a waste. How can I make her realize the truth?

Answer: Our objective for people with Alzheimer’s is to be positive and loving so they experience happiness. Although her wanting to set the table for a large group of people is frustrating and possibly irritating to you, it is not a harmful or unsafe activity for her. In fact, setting the table is a meaningful activity to her. You might consider letting her set the table for as many as she’d like. On the other hand, if your mama is doing something that is dangerous or unhealthy, you might want to step in and redirect. Cooking dinner might be dangerous for her, for others and for your home. Fires could be sparked — people could get hurt or burned. You might consider telling her that you’ll cook for the two of you. As others come home you’ll cook food for them so that their food will be nice and warm. When the two of you have finished dinner, your mama might unset the table and save the settings for another day. Finding ways your mama can feel helpful around the kitchen should be encouraged. She could mix ingredients, or wash the dishes, or put clean dishes away with your supervision and help. These activities would help her feel worthy and useful.

Email your questions concerning dementia to Bonnie at Questions are answered by Bonnie and her advisory committee from the local community.

Bonnie Holmes is president of Loving Health Care, Inc. Although the well qualified caregivers care for clients with many different types of needs, the specialty of this company is clients with dementia. For more information, call (864) 916-9204.