Mom's Place - Residential Board and Care for Seniors

Frequently Asked Questions

The Later Years:
Practical Information And Advice
For Adults With Aging Parents

How to counter the '' I want to go home ''syndrome.

"I want to go home" The hurt cuts deeply when your parent begs to go home. What can you do ? No simple answers exist, and no one suggestion will work for everyone, In order to tackle the "I want to go home" syndrome, you have to look inside your self.  Be empathetic, not sympathetic.

Fight the poor mom/poor dad mentality. Empathy means that you picture what it is like to be separated from your home and the things that are symbols of you, and that you understand what a drastic change your parent is facing.

Don't feel guilty.

Placement in the care facility was necessary for your parent's well-being and for yours. It was essential, so do not go on a guilt trip.

Be a grown-up child.

Adult children must be strong. They must act like grown-ups. The complains and occasional tantrums are ways of telling your parent is looking for assurance of love and concern. Giving that assurance will demand strength and skill.

Here are 10 tips to curb the "I want to go home" syndrome.

#1 Bring home to them.

Make a center that has important pictures and memorabilia. Explain that although it is impossible for them to stay by themselves at home, you are bringing as much home as you can to them. Video tape the old home place. Let them go up the road and into the house.

#2 Encourage them to talk about the old days

Don't be little this, because in talking they are living and experiencing. Understand the role listening to the old stories plays in their welfare.

#3 Tape their stories.

Have the children write out a series of questions to interview grand dad. My children had fun interviewing my mother about her life. What was her school like? How did she meet grandfather? How did she manage without electricity, water, television? My mother died suddenly about six months after the interview; the tape is now a family treasure.

#4 Help the elderly to go home in their minds.

My husband visited a friend who was dying  and could not go home. He said, "I can't take you home, but I want us to go fishing. When you shut your eyes, think about drifting down the beautiful Oklawaha River and finding that bed of red bellies"

The two played the scenario for six months.  On each visit, they would relive their latest mental  fishing trip. A similar scenario may be played with a  visit to the family home, a picnic or a favorite trip.

#5 Reinforce the positive and ignore the negative.

Ignore the requests to go home and instead give attention to the view, the activities, the pets that are brought around.

#6 Don't let the words "I want to go home" wave a red flag in your face.

Listen without judging. If a statement is logical deal with it in the same manner. If it is not, do not argue. Don't use statements like "We know what's best for you." Instead, say something like, "I understand you want to go home." Listen without judging. Paraphrase: "You want to go home because you do not like it here." (Pause) "What is it you don't like?"

#7 Listen to complaints.

Most of them will revolve around the food, the treatment or someone stealing things. Filter the complain through your mind and investigate if you think it is warranted. Margie investigated a complain that mother's pink gown was missing and found it was being washed.

#8 Find out who the Primary caregivers are.

Make special friends of the aides or LPN's. Remembering them on special occasions will foster good will and may cut down on discontent.

#9 Keep a sense of humor.

Give lightness and balance to discussions. Negative,  sarcastic or depressing comments will work against you.

#10 Practice mental imagery.

Plan a strategy in your mind. Think of a response. Visualize relaxing images. Practice deep breathing. See yourself reacting calmly to parents' feelings of depression, anger and abandonment. Envision listening without judging or reacting too strongly.

Picture yourself in command. Practice in your mind alternative strategies like ignoring the comments, talking about home and interjecting humor.

You can also use "What if" scenarios. What if the parent starts crying - how would you react? You won't say, "You're being childish." Try a hug and say, "I know, it hurts."

One underlying premise is to always speak the truth. Don't tell your parent you will take her home next time if you do not fully intend to. "I want to go home" is not the real Issue. Reassurance is - and you can provide that. Send the following messages to your loved one: 

I care.

I will bother.

There is hope (even in the most depressing cases)

Evelyn B. Kelly, PhD is a freelance writer specializing in medical and gerontological topics.

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