Most Alzheimer’s patients long for home. In the early stages of Mom’s Alzheimer’s, she said, “I want to go home.” Looking back, I believed her. But, for me, the hardest part was not what Mom was asking, it was the fact that she had no home to go back to. The last home that she lived in for over thirty-years was sold. My dad died four years earlier, and Mom could no longer keep up with a big house, and all that homeownership entails. Downsizing was best.
Before I educated myself about Alzheimer’s, my mother’s talk of going home pierced my heart like barbed wire. She talked logically and, at times, sounded convincing. Mom believed she was going back home even though she could not tell me where that was. When I tried to analyze my mother’s thought process, I ask myself: What home does Mom seek? Is it her childhood home? Could it be the home where she and daddy began their lives together? Maybe it’s the home where she and daddy raised a family? Or is it the home my parents bought when they retired? In my mind, all are possibilities. Thinking ‘in my mind’ led me to a moment that changed the way I feel about going home. After I considered my mother’s cognitive ability, I accepted that she does not remember any of her former homes. It took me a while to acknowledge this truth. When asked, Mom couldn’t tell me a specific location, only that she wanted to go home.
As Mom’s Alzheimer’s advanced, her desire for home advanced as well. With every visit, I braced myself and waited for our waltz to commence. I watched as my mother agonized over what to do. Stay or go home. Her dilemma was genuine. I worried, too, on how to help her. I understood that in her confused mind, she was in a state of limbo. I prayed that in time, Mom’s “want to go home” phase would pass.
Time did pass, and Mom’s yearning for home ceased. These days Mom rarely speaks of home. I doubt that she thinks of home anymore. I’m thankful that home no longer torments her. She now resides in a fully assisted care facility, which required more downsizing. Another reminder that my mother’s world continues to grow smaller and smaller. There are positives, though. Mom believes that she lives in a big house. She tells me how good the girls are to her that work at the home. Recently, she said to me that she was going to see if she could get a job at the house.
“I’m a good person,” Mom said. “I believe they can find something for me to do?”
“You’re the best person I know,” I said.
I understand now that Mom didn’t necessarily want to GO home, she just wanted the FEEL of home.
Don’t we all?