Hi Rachael – I am a volunteer coordinator at a large nonprofit hospice, and I am conducting a training on working w/ patients who have dementia. One statement that I've frequently overheard patients say to our volunteers is, "I want to go home." This is typically a patient who resides in some sort of long-term care facility. With "reorienting" out of the question, how would you suggest a volunteer respond? Thank you!

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Hi! I hope it hasn’t taken me too long to answer this, I just noticed it in my queue. 

I would suggest that they start a conversation about that home. “Oh, where is home for you?” When they find that out, begin to learn more. “Wow, I have never been there, what’s it like?” Typically the person with dementia will get off-topic and will begin talking about that place. 

If the person doesn’t get off topic, and is still asking about home, I usually say, “Okay, let’s do that a little while later” or something like that. Don’t have the volunteers define an exact time to go home, but rather tell them to suggest to the person with dementia that they can go home “in a while” or “later.” The key is to play along with whatever it is that they suggest.

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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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