When the person with Alzheimer’s yearns to go home–

When the person with Alzheimer’s yearns to go home, he’s usually remembering his childhood home.

Have you ever awoke in the middle of the night, startled and confused, not sure if you’re in your own bedroom or still in the nightmare you just escaped? Bad Dreams are made “real” in the dark.  Nightfall and darkness bring dancing shadows and spooky sounds and memories of nightmares past.

That’s often how the person with dementia feels if he is awakened in the middle of the night.  But his fright isn’t over just because he wakes up. Even awake, the person with middle-stage Alzheimer’s may remain confused and disoriented.

Briefly, his surroundings aren’t familiar, this home is not his own and strange movements and sounds startle him. This is not his bed, not his room, not his home and he has problems discerning where he might be.

Frightened into wakefulness in the middle of the night, someone with dementia can be disoriented as they stumble from their room searching for familiar things; a mate that is long deceased, a familiar pet of his youth, a special blanket that was thread-bare when thrown away a year ago.

Wherever he goes, there is nothing familiar. And he yearns for “Home!” It doesn’t matter whether it’s the home of his youth; Mom and Dad and Siblings. Or the home of his Adult self; a wife with scampering children under-foot.  He only knows–he wants to go there–to his authentic home–not this strange place.

The woman in this place claims to be his daughter, but that seems a strange proposition to him. Had he fathered her, why are there no  memories of this grown woman in his life when she was a child. He believes she’s explained that away somehow–maybe. He isn’t certain.

As he wanders this empty, dark house, he thinks, perhaps, he’ll leave this place and find his legitimate home. Perhaps he can walk far enough, or ask someone, or a few blocks from here he may recognize his own home.  Then he sees the locks on the door. And he has no time to flee before he is discovered and forced to stay in this place.

He is crying and crying. Until the strange woman puts an arm around him and hugs. She hugs him very hard. He thinks it would be good to have a daughter like this one. She must be a good daughter, he thinks. He allows her to lead him back to that strange bedroom, she turns on a low light and tucks him in. He decides to stay here for this night because he is tired now and soon, he is asleep too.

A few Helpful Hints for a good night’s sleep

  • 1. A long walk in the evening may leave the patient more ready for sleep
  • 2. If taking medications, verify with doctor that anti-anxiety meds may be taken later in the evening
  • 3. Try to avoid napping during the late afternoon
  • 4. Provide Activities during the day to avoid napping
  • 5. Quiet reassurances if they wake during the night
  • 6. Don’t confront–that will only escalate the fear or yearning for home
  • 7.  If they re-dress when waking at night, allow them sleep in their clothes
  • 8. No battles at night, Arguing solves nothing
  • 9. The caregiver needs a good night’s rest also!

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The easiest way to prevent the person with dementia from yearning for home, is to create a world for them that is busy, pleasurable and yet restful too.

It isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Most folks with dementia are easily occupied. A big box of crayons and a meaningful coloring book could keep my Mom busy for hours. She regaled any guests who came to see her with all her pretty colored pages.

Your loved one surely has a favorite hobby: Puzzle books, Folding Clothes, Yard work or Gardening, Sorting magazines. It just takes thinking, and remembering the person they were and what they really liked to do. You may have forgotten and so have they.

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A day of activity will help their mind and soul, as well as their physical strength. By evening they will be ready to wind down and perhaps, watch movies from the 50’s or just listen to some music from their era. I never encouraged Mom to be busy in late evening. If they are alert and agitated, it’s difficult for them to follow asleep and they may certainly yearn for home.

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When Mom went to bed, she was lulled to sleep with soft music. There are numerous CD’s and Music players to provide a wealth of good rest and sleep for someone who finds it difficult to calm them self.

Mom had an affinity for the gentle waves of the ocean. Calming the person with dementia is a plus! By the late stage, when the person with dementia is haunted with sundowners, their world is a confusion of disjointed thoughts. I think I would most certainly yearn for both my home and my Mom.

Help your loved one to burn their energy during the day, and rest peacefully in the evening and at nightfall.

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Comments

  1. says

    One of the things I’d really like people who write publicly about people with dementia, is to follow the International Guidelines on language and dementia, and not refer to us as sufferers. Yes, we may suffer, but we are not necessarily ‘sufferers’, and there is a difference. Alzheimer’s Disease International have recently released guidelines, and they include not using this word. As a person with dementia, I find many of the terms still being used like this to be offensive, demeaning and stigmatising. Thank you.

    • says

      Kate, I truly understand how you feel. But–how did you feel about Alzheimer’s in 2010 or 2009? before you gained any knowledge about Alzheimer’s or dementia or nursing homes, or Group homes, or hospice or dying or death from dementia?

      When my Mom was diagnosed, I had no idea what Alzheimer’s nor dementia was about. All I knew was what the doctor told me and the information gathered from many many books. Many books as late as 2009 referred to suffering with dementia. And, my mom did Suffer!

      Since there were few knowledgeable blogs about dementia in 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006-2004 (all years that I cared for my Mom with dementia.) I began my own blog to share my mother’s journey and hopefully meet others doing the same. You’re right, I didn’t know everything then and don’t now. I do not know the complete International Guidelines on language and dementia by heart.

      When I joined Facebook and began to learn through reading other blogs and talking to other caregivers who had the same issues that I had with My Mom, many of my thoughts and feelings began to change.

      To this day, I’ve edited many things on this website and blog to update my thoughts and add new knowledge about the world of Alzheimer’s and dementia. I absolutely do not want to misinform and have never attempted to do that. In no way would I demean someone with dementia since my Mom had it and I’m in Stage 1/2 myself.

      Yet, this is the 3rd or 4th time that you’ve sent me a “warning” of sorts. And frankly, this is a large website and blog. I work on it daily but it is not possible to wave a magic wand and magically correct ever thing that you want changed.

      And, I might have a difference of opinion with you occasionally, and I think that’s authentic and correct for me to state my own opinion on my own blog. No two people think exactly alike–with dementia or NOT.

      I will check this particular post for more issues that may offend you, but I make no promises for future requests unless there is a blatant error on my part. I have a terminal illness, myself, and your machinations might be better met by creating your own blog or website.

      ~Sandy

    • says

      Hi Sandy,
      Thank you for your reply. Firstly, I’m really sorry to hear you too have a terminal illness. Take care of you and I do hope things are going as well as possible in that regard.
      Also, apologies I don’t recall commenting here, but must have.
      Onto the use of words that offend many people with dementia – if you recall, we once all called people with intellectual or physical disabilities ‘retards’ or ‘retarded’, and thought was was ok, until they spoke up and said it offended them. This is happening now for people with dementia, and many of us have spoken up collectively now, so that organisations like Alzheimer’s Disease International and other Alzheimer’s Associations are starting to adjust their guidelines. Ireland had guidelines which included not referring to us as suffering or sufferers as far back as 2008. I have no problems with the notion we suffer – we do. But that’s not the same, from our perspective. Nor what you say priovately, that’s your choice, of course, but on a public site it is offensive.
      FYI, this year, I am updating my knowledge of dementia by doing a Master’s of Science in Dementia Care; being well informed really helps, and has been one of the keys to managing well with dementia.
      I thought you would have noticed from me filling in the comment details here, I do have a blog; http://kateswaffer.com started almost three years ago, that I’ve been publishing on almost daily since September 2011. It might be of interest to you also.
      Take care of you and yours.
      Kate

  2. says

    Hello,

    One of the things you might want to consider is playing music for your loved ones. There are tons of research that suggests a person who listens to music of their youth and childhood are less agitated, stress, forgetful and actually happy. Music does not cure Alzheimer’s Disease but it may help trigger memories of their past- a time when things were good and right.

    Please check out this organization and see what I am talking about. This is not spam rather I am merely trying to help open the eyes of those unaware of the miracle of music and Alzheimer’s Disease.

    http://www.musicandmemory.org
    facebook.com/musicandmemory
    twitter.com/musicnmemory
    youtube.com/musicandmemory1

    Music & Memory is a nonprofit organization in which we provide those suffering from AD and other debilitating diseases the ability to enhance their lives through iPods and personalized music.

    • ~ Sandy says

      Hello,
      I think this is true. When I was taking care of my Mom, I noticed that she liked music more than before her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. She would wear a headset and listen to music alone, which I had never seen her do previously.

      I think you’re right about the benefit of music and it’s becoming more popular recently, too. I’ve seen many more articles lately about Music and Dementia and Alzheimer’s and helping them calm themselves.

      Anything that helps those with dementia to remain at peace, free of nightmares and yearnings, is a good thing.

      Thank you for contributing this information.

      ~Sandy

  3. linda says

    Just read the post and I can’t stop crying. I HATE what is happening to my family member. I have to believe there is a reason for this horrendous disease otherwise such cruelty does not make sense. I am tired of being logical and strong for my person. I need to understand WHY and I need someone to hug me back.

    • ~ Sandy says

      Linda,
      I certainly understand how you feel. I’m sorry that your loved one will be forced to deal with this disease and the symptoms that accompany it.

      Despite the sadness, there will be many loving moments of sharing with that loved one, too. My mom and I had many many months of shared experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. We even had shared experiences of Alzheimer’s that I still treasure. You may read some of those memories here. Though it is sad, as any time of illness in a family is–it isn’t all sadness all the time.

      You are right though, you will need someone to share your sorrow and hug you when you’re overcome with sadness, as you will be at times. Look to family members you trust, and social groups where you find acceptance. There are many groups of caregivers who find strength when they join together. You can find a group through any local Alzheimer’s Association in your area. If you prefer a group online, you might join Memory People.

      Memory People is a support group for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia as well as their caregivers and loved ones. They are a solid foundation for camaraderie and information regarding the stages and steps that will occur with this disease. If you are registered at Facebook, simply type Memory People in the search box and click JOIN. Someone will contact you right away as this is a Private Group.

      Take care of yourself and get as much information as you can. Being well-informed will help.
      Sandy

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