Dementia and Defining What Home Is
By Carole, a representative of DASNI
You say your mother is asking to go home? Let me tell you about “home.” “Home” is that lovely time in our own memory and mind when the world was understandable and familiar, and we felt quite capable of doing what we set out to do. We felt safe and happy and among loved ones. We felt we had everything we needed.
As we age, we all get nostalgic for that better time we remember. We may think we grieve a physical place like the farm where we rode our horses, or the house our husband’s built for us, however, even if we were to be taken back there, we would no longer recognize it as “home.” Our own minds and our abilities have changed. When you visit your mother and treat her as the mom you once knew and loved, it is giving her back as much of that “home” in her mind as she ever will have again. You are sugar cookies and grandma’s lap and the delights of young adulthood all rolled into one. Your touch is familiar, the timbre of your voice makes me relax, and the memories associated with your scent flood me with things I had forgotten. That is why regular visits from people we love are so important for people in nursing homes.
If we have forgotten our immediate past, and we can’t even anticipate the future ahead of us, NOW is all we have left on earth. Loving visits give us a little piece of home right now. You know that saying, “You can’t go home again?” I think it refers to that once-upon-a-time place in our heads and hearts that are is no longer accessible to us. For people with dementia, the loss is magnified many times over. The loss we grieve is the loss of parts of our selves.
Christine Bryden, author of “dancing with Dementia,” says of people with advancing dementia that they are on an important and exciting journey out of cognition [which we lose], through emotion, and on into spirit. That is the true going “home.” I think she would say that your mother is somewhere along the emotional part of the path. The path is not all positive, but it must be traveled to get back to our maker. I like that. It dignifies the journey and makes it less sad for the rest of us to think of it in that way. One is not abandoning a person to let them continue a journey one must travel alone. The best we can do for that person is meet him at resting places along their voyage, nourish him or her emotionally, and help ease the loneliness.
I want to thank Carole for this beautiful and thought provoking article! If you have one you would like to submit for review please don’t hesitate to contact me. Together we can make a difference!
For more information about DASNI Dementia Advocacy Support Network International