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 how the dementia sufferer 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 middle-stage Alzheimer’s sufferer remains confused and disoriented. 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, he is disoriented as he stumbles from his 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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go-home

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Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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

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