She's packing again!

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My mother has been living in assisted living for about 7 weeks now and she keeps packing everything in her house, preparing to move to some home that she owns in her imagination. She has Alzheimer's Disease and is certain that she owns two lovely homes and three cars. She puts literally everything in the house into plastic bags and calls my sister and says she's ready to move. My sisters have unpacked her again several times, but they are growing really weary of this. Does anyone have any ideas of how to stop this behavior? I guess we could take away all of her plastic bags (they are just trash bags), but somehow I think she would still pile everything up and make a total mess. The place where she lives say they have never seen this behavior.
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The Sibling5, where are you st now with this? We are dealing with similar behavior. Every day she is trying to pack up and go home because she believes her mom is sick and she needs to take care of her (she’s 94 and her mom died in 1963). We feel as if we’ve tried everything, telling her we will arrange that trip or go later makes her angry that we won’t take her NOW and she insists it’s close enough to walk or she will get her own cab. Driving around doesn’t work because she is looking for her mother and accuses us of stalling and holding her hostage. No amount of distraction works because once she decides she’s going then she has no patience to wait or do anything else first (she won’t even use the bathroom or get a meal before heading out) and gets annoyed that we don’t understand the urgency and we’re keeping her hostage. Letting her walk outside, she tries to knock on all the neighbors doors. Keeping her locked in doesn’t work because she knows the dementia lock is there and attempts to get on chairs to unlock it or else bang on door and get more agitated. Her wanting to go home as nothing to do with feeling safe, I think it’s her worry/sense if responsibility for her mother. She always says she will be back if we just let her go check on her mom but when we don’t, we morph into her being the victim of her family that has done her so wrong (holding hostage/lying) and she can’t believe and will never forgive.
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My mom is now 94 & I have moved her to a good nursing home near me in FL. She is still in good physical health, but can no longer speak, has to be fed sometimes & has cognatively declined. She is happy, has friends where she lives & I am able to visit her & bring her ice cream often. Thanks to everyone who helped me out when I first moved her into assisted living.
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My mom is 93, still lives at home with my nephew staying with her. Her children take turns staying the weekend with her. She keeps packing up her belongings in bags and pillow cases and says she needs to go home. She is home. She still recognizes us, but talks of long ago often. I'm not sure where she thinks she is, but packs bags every day lately needing to go home. We try to change the subject, take her out of the house to go somewhere, then make sure we tell her, "here we are home again". Stress that she is home, however, the confusion continues.
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My mom is becoming obsessed with this. She lives at home. Sometimes a ride around the block resolves it, but she recognizes circling and gets very angry!
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Sometimes it's just the memory issue. As dementia increases they can stop recognizing places or people. My mom has lived with me for 18 years. For the last 6 years she has had dementia which is progressing faster now. She thinks her handicapped brother and sister, who died in 1926 and 1937, are here and that she has to take care of them, much of the time doesn't remember that I'm her daughter, and packs up every day or two because she thinks her mother expects her to come home and so she wants to go back to the house where she grew up. She's 91 and left home at 16 and earned her way through a private school and college... Go figure! We put child protectors on all the doors except hers so that I don't have to hunt all over the house for the stuff she packs and leaves someplace else. I made a sign for her bedroom which said "Winnie's bedroom and bathroom". It worked for a while but now she can come out of her bathroom all of 5-6 feet and not remember where it is... It wouldn't make sense to try to bring her to reality. She's way past that place... Usually now I can tell her that our schedule is to be here for a couple days. Helps for a minute or two and then we're back to the same issues...
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Sometimes it's just the memory issue. As dementia increases they can stop recognizing places or people. My mom has lived with me for 18 years. For the last 6 years she has had dementia which is progressing faster now. She thinks her handicapped brother and sister, who died in 1926 and 1937, are here and that she has to take care of them, much of the time doesn't remember that I'm her daughter, and packs up every day or two because she thinks her mother expects her to come home and so she wants to go back to the house where she grew up. She's 91 and left home at 16 and earned her way through a private school and college... Go figure! We put child protectors on all the doors except hers so that I don't have to hunt all over the house for the stuff she packs and leaves someplace else. I made a sign for her bedroom which said "Winnie's bedroom and bathroom". It worked for a while but now she can come out of her bathroom all of 5-6 feet and not remember where it is... It wouldn't make sense to try to bring her to reality. She's way past that place... Usually now I can tell her that our schedule is to be here for a couple days. Helps for a minute or two and then we're back to the same issues...
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I am a private caregiver for 25yrs. I am currently working out of a very nice assisted living facility. I see this every day and for someone who works in these types of facilities tells you otherwords then they haven't been working there very long. This happens all the time. Especialy if she has been there a short while. What you need to do is to check with the facility and see if they have such a program where someone who works for the facility comes and takes your mom for a certim amount of hours during the day and does activities with her, mental and some exercises, etc. I know most facilities have something like this. If they do not, you can hire a person to come in and spend some time with your mom, go for walks with her, talk with her. I know most elderly want to talk about their childhood years or about their children when they were little etc. The person you bring in can do wonders for your mom, she will not be lonely anymore. I am sure your mom is lonely, and feels like she has no one she can talk to. She's in a new place with new people. I know I walk my lady to the breakfest, lunch, or dinner table where there are other ladies and I interduce her to everyone on that table. and every time she needs to eat. I always try to take her back to the same table, if she was comfortable the first time. Keep taking her back to the same place, untill she starts making friends with others. This is very important. Good luck
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Thank you so much for your insights and invaluable suggestions. It makes perfect sense to me now, that she would want to go back to a home that she loved and a time when her life was going well and filled with happiness.
She lives in her own apartment in an assisted living facility. She DID have a UTI, also. I managed to persuade her doctor to admit her to the hosptial and he did a brain scan and other tests that she was refusing to have.
She went back to her apartment and my sisters had unpacked her. She stayed there for one week and packed up again. They just ignored it and a day later, she unpacked again. Part of this is a repetitive behavior, I think, and yes,it is motivated by unfamiliar surroundings. Nothing looks right or like home to her.
My sisters take her out for ice cream all the time.....it really seems to comfort her. I live in another state, or I would be with her often. We have upped her care and she is getting more support.
I can't thank you enough for your posts, I am going to print them and send them to my sisters.
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AJL2001 what great advise, I would like to add that if this person is in a 'private' assisted living type area, that it may be time for her to be moved to where there is more structure AND more people around her.

Wanting to 'go home' really is triggered by not feeling comfortable or safe or secure. Perhaps moving her to where there is more activity, structure and will keep her occupied and happier.

ODD behavior can also be an indication of a something as simple as a urinary tract infection. Sounds odd, but could be the case. Have her checked out medically too. And talk to the management about perhaps looking into more 'secure' living arrangements at the same facility.
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Pandora,

I don't have this problem, but I googled "alzheimer's packing up to go home" and found many similar stories -- so this is NOT unusual for AD patients.

Here are some ideas offered:

The need to go home is the need to go back in time to a place where you are loved and safe. This is especially common when the patient begins to experience difficulty with consistent recognition of familiar people.

People with AD have changes in their visual perception that limit their ability to recognize objects and places, making familiar places seem unfamiliar. If the behavior occurs later in the day it means fatigue is compounding the problem. If her home does not look familiar, it can be frightening.

One approach is to use validation - "Tell me about your home. Are you feeling homesick? What about your home do you miss? Who is there for you?"

Always reassure the person that you are there with them and that they are safe. The one thing that doesn't work is trying to convince the person it IS their home.

Ask her to stay a few days longer--
You need her to stay a few days because you need help, or the house is being worked on, I will be out of town for a few days, etc. Use the memory loss to your advantage. These things work if short term memory does not work and she does not remember this later.

I found it best to get my mom off the subject as soon as possible. If I did not change the subject, she would go on about going home for almost an hour. This just gave her to opportunity to practice and reinforce her speach. But she would not be easily redirected immediately. She would still demand to go home for a few minutes until I could finally redirect her.


1. don’t try to convince her she is wrong. Ask her to tell you about the home she longs for: who lives there; what she would be doing: and why it feels safe.
2. Reassure her that you will keep her safe
3. Redirect: Try to involve her with a familiar activity such as helping you prepare supper.
4. Increase her rest periods during the day so she is not so fatigued in late afternoon.
5. If the behavior includes agitation, crying or trying to elope, speak with her health care provider to check for urinary tract infection and/or determine the need for medications for anxiety.
6. Enrolling the person in adult day programming provides additional structure and the reinforcement that she is now “home” in the afternoon.

Plan something special like tomorrow when I come I will bring your favorite ice cream and we will sit in the family room together and eat our ice cream. Or tomorrow I will come and bring you something special for your room and take her a little gift for her room. What did she like in her bedroom at home think about that and bring her something that you know she will like. It doesn't have to cost very much. Maybe a picture for the wall that she can help you hang. Just some thoughts.
Just a thought also make sure she is free of any infection like a UTI as this can cause this type of behavior. Ask for her to be checked for infection.

Moreover, is there a pattern? For example, if it occurs later in the day, it may be her _expression_ of fatigue and the need for a rest, or that the TV is bothering her. If it is earlier in the day, there may not be enough structure and she doesn't know what to do next (thus day care might be of real benefit), or she may be suffering from depression.

Instead of trying to convince her that this is your home now.... acknowledge her distress and that you love her and want to help. Give hugs instead of explanations. They are easier, mean more, and are a lot faster than trying to approach with reason.
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