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Alzheimer's and can't identify home

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Old 10-08-2012, 08:40 AM   #1
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Alzheimer's and can't identify home

My 88-year old father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's three years ago and until this summer was doing fairly well. He has gone down considerably since June and last week decided that the home he has lived in for 57 years is not his home. It looks just the same but it's not his.

He will remember that it's his when we discuss every detail about moving here and what improvements were made over the years, but as soon as we stop talking, he starts right in again wanting to pack his things so he can go home.

My Mother gets very frustrated with him (as all of us do) and he usually talks to me about it and always believes what I tell him. This time is different as he does not believe me about the house. I'm afraid that he will leave in the middle of the night and get lost.

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Old 10-08-2012, 10:17 AM   #2
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Re: Alzheimer's and can't identify home

I'm sorry for your situation. The course of the disease causes gradually worsening confusion like this. And it can lead to dangerous wandering as the patient tries to find his way "home".

You would be wise to contact the Alzheimer's Association for help in dealing with the behaviors that are so troubling and sometimes dangerous. For this particular one you're having now, they recommend not over-explaining by using more words than the patient is capable of understanding at one time. That will only confuse him more. Try showing him a photo of himself with the house in the background (or him in a familiar room) to help him establish his connection to the location. Recent studies have demonstrated that patients have much greater ability to recognize images than words, so this should help him to connect himself with the house. (It will also help in case he ever doesn't recognize you. Show a photo of you as a younger person together with him. His "old" memories won't be as impaired as his recent ones.)

Again, I'm so sorry your family has to deal with this. My mom and aunt took care of my afflicted grandma; I know how hard it can be.
Best wishes to you all.
"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses." Abraham Lincoln

Old 10-08-2012, 10:22 AM   #3
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Re: Alzheimer's and can't identify home

Hi redhead,

I am so sorry that your father has declined and does not know his own house now. It is like moderate stage, I think.
My late FIL had the exact issue! He lived alone back home and we hired caregivers for him. When he had full-time caregivers, he started forgetting that it was his own house. Sometimes if we said it was his house, he was very happy and said it was unbelievable. It is the memory loss. But he remembered that he painted the house if he sat outside in the backyard. When we moved him to the NH in 2010, he knew that it was his house somehow and wanted to do something about the house (to keep the deco for showing or close the windows...) No, he didn't exactly forget about it 100%. But at home he kept saying it was like a nursing home and he was there in the "facility" given the caregivers.
(He liked it too since it was his own!)

I am sure your Mom feels very bad about this. The right thing to do is not to make sure he remembers the house. If you can remind him, it is good. If he insists, don't argue with him and let it be. Just make sure he is happy.

The issue about geting lost has nothing to do with the knowledge that it is his house or not. He can just walk out anytime due to any confusion and get lost at the corner or in the store nearby. Sometimes if he is home alone, he could just leave the house and get lost. If he is smart, he can go to the neighbors for help but the neighbors have to be at home at that time. My late FIL knew how to get to the neighbors for help. But if there is no one to help, he would be in big trouble!
This means your Dad needs someone to be next to him. He should not be alone. There was one time when our home care people were talking about blocking the backyard so my late FIL would not walk out. But we never did that blocking. Actually blocking is dangerous because he could climb over the blocks/rocks. But you could block the doors with the chairs so he may forget that it is the exits.
One time my late FIL was walking at the front door while the caregiver was doing the wash in the basement. She happened to see him and asked why he was out there! I think he was looking for her.

The only thing you can do is make sure someone is nearby in the house so he will not get lost.

Please continue to post here. This is a good site with lots of advices.


Last edited by ninamarc; 10-08-2012 at 10:37 AM.

Old 10-08-2012, 11:30 AM   #4
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Re: Alzheimer's and can't identify home

Hello Redhead and welcome

What you described is very typical of Alzheimer's behavior. It is the progression of the disease you are seeing. Yes, you might be able to win him over in a moment of intense convincing... but is he really won over or just saying ok because you don't understand his point of view? Even if he does get it in the moment he forget it quickly and goes back to what his brain is telling him. Either way to constantly argue with him is only aggravating both of you. If he doesn't remember or understand... and it's not life threatening then leave it be. Also know that you are not going to be successful in making him remember. His brain is telling him something very different and his reality (as warped as you might think it is) is as real to him as your reality is to you. You telling him it is his house is just as bizarre to him as him telling you that it is not his house! Since we are the rational thinking ones... we have to join in their reality rather than trying to drag them into ours.

Instead acknowledge the fact that he is upset. Ask him what is bothering him about where he is. Try to connect with him rather than telling him he is wrong. Validating his feelings will go a long way. I he knows you have accepted that he is uncomfortable where he is then you might find out what can be done to make it better for him. Being argumentative will only deflate him and make the situation worse.

Wandering is a very real possibility at this point. Trying to convince him that he is home is NOT going to change that fact. He gets up in the middle of the night and Mom is sleeping... and he decides he has to go... he's gone. It happened with my Dad and it is very scary knowing they can not function in that world out there but they are in it. It is a life threatening situation but once again, you can not stop it by trying to convince him to stay home What you can do is alter the environment to accommodate the possibilities.

If your house has a single pathway to exit the house you can put in a motion sensor. It will alarm if they wander at night and wake you up. Install dead bolt locks that you have to have a key to open. Then put the key OVER the door or in a location that you will find but not him. His vision is probably narrowed to the point that his peripheral vision is impaired and he will miss things up high. Make sure he has on an emergency ID that indicates he is cognitively impaired and who to call. I have seen people do other things as well. One family hung curtains over the door. Their loved one couldn't find the door because it was hidden from view. Another put a black rug in front of the door. Their loved ones depth perception indicated the black was a hole and they would not cross the black rug. Another friend hung wind chimes in the door way. It alerted to any attempt to exit. But you do need to do something before it happens....

That is one of the major reasons my Mom and Dad could not stay at home. Their house had five doors and you could only see two from any single location in the house. Mom (Alzheimer's) would be going out the front while Dad (Vascular) was going out the back. Occasionally, Dad in particular didn't remember it being "home". Other times he needed to go do something that related to one of his delusions. Mom would just "run away". They even eloped (official term for wandering) from AL. That is why they both ended up in a locked dementia unit.

So be very vigilant concerning wandering. Have an honest discussion of the problem with Mom. It may be time for additional help.

Love, deb

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alzheimer's, confused, lost

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