I'm going home now.

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Many of our residents receive visitors on a regular basis. It’s nice to see them interact with daughters, sons, grandchildren, and even spouses. The trouble occurs when family members don’t know how to say goodbye when the visit ends. I’ve watched numerous family members (especially spouses) say to their loved one, “Okay, I’m going home.”

I’m going home.

While some of our residents recognize that the visitor does indeed have a different home, many do not. Many are unsure why their beloved spouse would “go home” without them. I hate watching the pain in a resident’s eyes as they realize that their husband or wife is going home, to a different home, and that they won’t be able to join.

If your loved one is in memory care, please consider their feelings and confusion when telling them that you’re leaving for the day. Why not get them involved in an activity before walking out? Perhaps you could suggest that you need to “run to the store” or that you’re “leaving for a bit” but that you’ll see them again soon. There are numerous happy alternatives to “I’m going home” and none of them have to make you feel as though you’re lying to your loved one. It’s so important to find a way to say goodbye that doesn’t end in tears. 

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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