The human mind is a fragile thing when age or the onslaught of disease takes its toll. Since we’ve already been Care Givers for my mother and DH’s father, who both had Alzheimer’s, we’ve heard many, many pitiful pleas and angry demands for us to take them “home.” My Mama was in the hospital, with me there 24 hours a day for 35 days, recovering from a broken hip and going through rehab. She never could get straight in her head where she was, but I expected things to be better once I got her back into her own home.
I was very disappointed to find that she didn’t know she was in her own home, when we did get her back there. Each day involved question after question about when we would be leaving, why wasn’t I taking her home, who were these strange people, etc. No amount of reassuring her that she was home, and that the people were her family, would appease her. At one point she was in a panic, because she was worried about her dog being alone at the house, with no one to care for him. What could I say? She was remembering the house I had grown up in, and a dog I had as a little girl. So I had to play along that Cindy was being well taken care of, and for her not to worry.
We moved Pop out of his home, and moved him in with us. So his constant requests to go home at least made sense!
But I was not prepared to have these same conversations with my Daddy! He’s old – VERY old – but has been more or less lucid most of the time, even after he fell on Thanksgiving weekend. Well, he’s been lucid about everything EXCEPT that he was still in his own home! He’s forever asking me for his cap and jacket, so we can head home.
I’ve come to the conclusion that what they all mean when they ask to go home is to go back to a time when they were in control. A time in their lives when they had privacy. A time when someone else did not pick out the clothes they would wear, or decide what they would have for lunch, or when it was bedtime. A time in their lives when they could still drive, take a walk around the block, or, in Daddy’s case, cut the grass.
As Care Givers, we can do our best to keep them safe and comfortable physically, and we can even play along with their delusions at times, but the one thing we cannot do for them is to give them back that control over their own lives that they so long for.
My Daddy will be 102 in less than two weeks. His body becomes noticeably more frail each day, his speech has become all but nonexistent over the last few days, and we can get very little nutrition or fluids down him. It frustrates him to try to talk when he can’t get the words out. He can no longer help us when we turn him in the bed. His days and nights are spent for the most part sleeping. Sure he wants to go home. Who wouldn’t want to return to a better time??
I both rejoice and am deeply grieved that he soon will be truly HOME. Seeing my dear Mama again. Walking with a full strong stride. Enjoying seeing all the wonderful sights that his blind eyes have been missing for many, many years. Hearing the angelic choir in all its glory. And I betcha he’ll be on a riding lawn mower keeping the yard cut!!!
I’m already grieving his loss. Just writing these last words has the tears flowing. But he’s lived a long life, with much to be proud of and to enjoy. It’s time for him to go home.