For About and By Caregivers
Meet Them Where They are

By Malika Brown, MSW, LSW 


Oh boy, there goes mom again: “I want to go home! Take me home!” She actually is home, but she wants to go back to her home from childhood.

“Delores, come here!” Her sister’s name was Delores, but your name is Elaine, and her sister passed away long ago.


These are just some examples of what caregivers go through when living with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. It is very difficult to understand why our parents or spouses, once alert, intelligent, lively people, cannot even remember our names anymore. We want them to snap out of it, to come back to reality: “For the one hundredth time, you are home, Mom. My name is not Delores; I’m your daughter Elaine; don’t you remember? You WILL get in that shower; you cannot walk around stinky all day!” Everyone gets frustrated because no matter how hard you try, they just don’t seem to ‘get it.’

While it is natural for us to want them to come back to our reality, many times, it may be easier to go into theirs. Alzheimer’s patients don’t remember recent events anymore because they can’t, no matter how many times we tell them, and no matter how hard they try. That’s what this illness is all about.

However, would it hurt us to go back to their reality? What is your mom, dad, or spouse thinking or feeling when they mistake you for their sister or brother? Why won’t they take a shower? Why do they want to go back to their childhood home?
Instead of becoming frustrated and angry at something that your loved one cannot control, step into their world, just for that moment. For example, ask your loved one “You have to go home? Is it important for you to go home? What do you have to do there?” This may just give you an insight into your loved one’s past that you never knew before. This will also allow them to talk about something that has been on their minds, but they really didn’t know why.

Another example could be “Do you miss Delores? What did you like best about her?” Again, this will allow your loved one to reminisce, and it will allow you to have an intimate moment with your loved one. 

Many times, people with Alzheimer’s disease don’t like the shower because the showerhead water comes down from above and scares them. This happens because their visual cues don’t work the same as ours. This can be handled by letting the water run from the faucet below, or giving a sponge bath instead of a shower.

Although these tips won’t work all the time, they may work some of the time. Easing the stress of you and your loved one will allow more quality time to spend with each other, a more trusting, intimate bond, and a better understanding of what’s on their minds. Remember, they’re not doing this on purpose; they do love you and they are trying the best they can.

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