Over the past few months, Mom has not recognized her home. She thinks where she lives is two houses instead of one. She often asks what happened to her house, says that she wants to be in her own house, and asks where her house is. When we ask her to describe what her house looks like, she describes the house she is currently living in so it is not like she is remembering a house from her childhood or another time in her life and so she does not see her current home as hers.
The only thing that has changed in her house is that what used to be the "great room" (a large living room) was sectioned off and a bathroom was added four years ago when we moved in and in anticipation of knowing Mom would not be able to use stairs in the future. However, the rest of the house looks the same. That change may explain why she thinks there are two houses, but she does not even feel like one of the two is her house.
For some people, what if dementia means you never feel like you are at home? Home is not just a physical place, but an emotional and spiritual one. If home is a place filled with your memories and hopefully a feeling of safety and with dementia you are losing your memories and everything feels unsafe, maybe there is no place you can call "home." Maybe when someone with dementia says "I want to go home" they are not asking for a physical place, but they are expressing how unsafe they feel. They may be telling us how unsure they are of life and everything they once knew.
|Photo by Jeff Norris
This would not surprise me. When I was little and started having problems with anxiety and bipolar disorder when I was anxious and scared, I would rock back and forth and say to myself "I want to go home" yet I was in my own house. Home was safety, a feeling that the world was alright. I didn't feel that way so I was not at "home." I still say "I want to go home" when I am having a bad day.
Maybe the feeling of wanting to go home is common for those of us with certain brain illnesses because we are looking for emotional and spiritual comfort rather than an actual physical space we call home.