joyful Asked July 2011

We just moved my in-laws with dementia and now they want to visit their old home. Should we let them go back and see their home?

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My in-laws (mother-in-law especially) want to "say goodbye and get their things" from their former home. Other days they "appreciate the vacation home the kids have provided (!) but are ready to move back home". Currently the house is in disarray because we moved them into an independent living duplex (we have lots of family help and a state-funded personal care aide) and furnished it with most of their furniture. We packed EVERYTHING they loved and more than they could ever need (thank goodness for an attic in their new place). Their new place is FULL. They don't remember what the old house looked like and don't remember any items they don't have. They got into financial trouble a couple of years ago, and my husband and I paid off their debt in exchange for the deed on their house (they wanted us to be able to recoup that money), and now we must sell it. They continued to live there for two years until he had to have surgery this past January. He had surgical complications and was in the hospital for six months, which worsened his memory loss. The house needs cleaning, many repairs, and updating. Of course, they don't remember any of this and still think they are fine. They have been in their new home for about a month. They (she in particular) are very insistent with their daughter and her sister about going to the house NOW. We want to accommodate them and allow them a normal grieving process. It will be very hard on them and all of us kids, who are still struggling with his near-death situation and caring for her 24/7 during that time, the shocking and significant state of their dementia, and having to move them from their beloved home. The family dynamic is to do whatever the mother wants. Will they remember that they went, and why they are upset? Will they continuously want to return, and how do we deal with that? Can they go through a normal grieving process? If we take them, when should we do it? One therapist recommended doing it when the house was completely empty. Is it cruel to take them? Or not take them? She didn't want to go through her stuff originally, and she doesn't have the ability to go through the selection process since she can't problem-solve well. They will be very emotionally overwhelmed during and after the visit, but we want to do what is best for them and for us. Any input would be appreciated.

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EXPERT Deanna Lueckenotte Jul 2011
You have a great deal on your plate and I send you positive thoughts! In regards to the mother in law with dementia and wanting to go visit her old home I would say to not take her to visit. With her diagnosis of dementia she chances are will forget the visit once you do take her and will ask over and over again to go visit her old home. Look through old photo albums and find some great pics of her home with fond memories and put a "scrap" type book together for her. When she starts talking about wanting to go home redirect her to the photos. It is great if you know some of the information behind some of the photos so you as well as others can sit and talk with her about the great times spent there. The other thing to keep in mind is with dementia they will ask the same questions over and over again so you may be using the photo scrap book a great deal in your day to day care. I hope you find this helpful. Wishing you strength, courage and happiness with those in their days gone by.
Deanna
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jeannegibbs Jul 2011
How good and kind of you to be trying to figure out what is best for everyone. Know that at some point a decision will have to be made and carried out, with no advance guarantee that it will be the right decision. All you can do is your best, so please do not beat yourself up or second-guess your decision after it is made.

There is some appeal to waiting until the house is ready to sell to take them to see it (if at all). That might provide a kind of closure. But they have dementia so all bets are off regarding how they will process it.

You might satisfy their needs with some family albums. That is often a good passtime with people who still have their longterm memory. Oh look at the lilac bushes next to the house! Did you plant them, or were they there when you bought the house? Tell us about when you bought (or built) the house. Why did you pick that location? Etc. etc. Perhaps during some of these conversations someone can work in a comment about hoping that the next owners of the house will get as much pleasure out of it that your family did.

Keep in mind that what dementia sufferers say they want and what they are really longing for may not be the same thing. My husband went through a period of begging to "go home." He sometimes packed things to go home. He frequently asked when we could go home. He waited at the door for the ride to take him home. All this while we were in the house we had lived in together for the past 14 years. At various times he thought our house was a nursing home, a hotel, a railway station, a high school, or a hospital. I later learned that wanting to "go home" even when they are home is fairly common in dementia. Was he thinking of a childhood home? Was he just wishing his life was the way it used to be?

In your situation there is a literal building that your in-laws want to see. But they can't "go home" to that literal building or to the way their life was before dementia began robbing them of it, any more than I could take my husband home. Whether satisfying the request to see the house again will help or harm I can't guess.

Use your best judgment, and realize that whatever happens regarding the house, your in-laws situation is profoundly sad. Seeing or not seeing a building will have little impact on that, in my opinion.

Hugs to you!
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cmagnum Jul 2011
First of all, people with dementia do not handle moving very well at all and often with each move the dementia gets worse.

Second, is her daughter and sister aware of how bad a shape that house is in?

Third, it does not sound like you and your husband will be able to regain the money you used to pay off that debt with how much work the house will need and the current housing market.

Fourth, do they understand that since giving you the deed to the house for paying off their debt that they no longer own the house?

Fifth, what does your inlaws doctor say about moving or not moving?

Sixth, as I see with my own mother who has dementia and does not realize how unrealistic her situation is for ever going back home, your inlaws will want to go home which you'll have to find some way to deflect the conversation to another subject.

Seventh, is there a social worker who works there that can give you some guidance.

Eight, is your family really ready to handle the 24/7 care for your inlaws and the declining stages yet before you?

Ninth, more than just "let's keep mama happy because if she's not happy, then no one is happy" the focus really needs to look at the situation as a whole as to what is best for everyone involved given the realities of the present and the prognosis for the future so that no one gets thrown under the bus.

I wish you well in sorting all of this out.
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CalliLaine Apr 2015
My mother is demanding to visit her house to get a few of her things. She wants for nothing and I'm not taking her. I can see nothing positive about her going to the house; she is full of rage and blame for being in an ALF (her wishes according to her Adv Directive) and I'm usually the target. I just keep ignoring the question or saying, "I'll let you know the next time I go." I'm just praying for the time when the dementia takes this idea from her. I can't see driving her two hours to "visit" a place she'll never live in again....it'll be an emotional, angry outburst laden exercise that does nothing positive.
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NancyH Jul 2011
Joyful, we went through this with my mother-in-law when we had to move her out of the house she'd lived with her husband and their three boys since 1960. About 6 months after my father-in-law died we found out just how much he'd been doing for her that we had NO idea of. After she fell (for the third time) this time breaking her hip, her doctor said she could no longer live alone. So after talking to her about it, we moved her into asst living after rehab. For months after her move into asst living she begged and wanted to see her old house again. At first she wanted to see her old house cause she wanted to move back, so we had that to deal with for probably 6 more months. We were afraid to even let her see it, thinking that if she got out of the car in the driveway how would we get her back in the car? Well, after awhile the news finally reached her dementia laden brain to know that she really couldn't move back so then it became safe to let her see it again. It sat empty for awhile then a niece rented it, and now our son is renting her old house. She is happy that it's him and his wife that's there, and they've had her over to walk thru and see what it looks like now. She always asks me 'how's Jayson like my house?' I always tell her 'he likes your house fine.' It's the same question and the same answer every time. She just wants to remind me how much she enjoyed living there and wants him to enjoy it too. My point I guess is, wait till you no longer have to worry about her jumping out of the car and refusing to leave her old porch before you take her back to see it. And if you're not going to have family renting it so she can see the changes in her old house, then wait till it's empty. The shock will be less I believe. Good luck. Tis a sad thing when we have to be uprooted from a place where we love, no matter what age.
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Boz Oct 2011
I think one needs to think "how would I want my children to deal with me in this situation?". Seeking the advise of a social worker is a great idea but family often knows what is best. Just be sure you are doing what is best for them and just not what is easiest for the family at large.
Don't over think this. They have made a simple request. As a caregiver there are and will be far bigger issues to deal with.
Overall I say let them see the house when empty. Be sure they know that you are stopping by to tour the home on your way to some other activity that is important to attend...an activity THEY want to attend. (Perhaps a grandchilds activity) Video tape the tour . Be sure the video shows them walking through the home, the yard, the garage, any outbuildings. If they talk about memories as they tour the home capture that. Then as appropiate they can relive the visit.
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Blessed21 May 2016
My mother in law lives with us, my father in law and her lived with us while he was on dialysis 3 years. Then they went back to their house for a short 6 months and his life ended, because he was tired and 86. Then we had to move my mother in law back in with us, she is starting to show dementia. She had a stroke a few years back which took away most of her ability to write, read, etc. She can walk each day with a cane and watch movies of the same all day long. She likes being here with us and her son. She has become very dependable on my husband for everything (which is okay with me for right now), but my thing is that he has 2 sisters who live in different states and when they come home to see her for a week or two weeks, they want to take her back to her old home. When she returns, she is so confused and she doesn't know why she couldn't just stay at her house...I personally feel that this is wrong. When she's home with them, she thinks that she is back doing what she use to do with her kids. Then we have to bring her back here again and she doesn't want to talk much, eat or do anything, because I feel that she thinks that she's being forced to come back, when in reality, those daughters are not coming back here to live in their childhood place. They just feel comfortable in their old home as well, but it's making their mom thinks that it is still the same as it use to be. They think that they are doing the right thing, but they only see their mom once or twice a year. Should they just stay at our house with her (and do fun things) or am I being the wife who has to pick up the pieces after they are gone!
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punkie Oct 29, 2017
Listen to your loved one.."going home" can mean so many different things My Mom is very specific she wants to go back to the town where she grew up and these are her words to see it one more time..to be in that familiar place one more time....My Mom will forever with Alzheimer's ask to go home as she will forever be seeking that familiar place where she felt safe because this disease takes that from her she never feels safe and nothing is ever familiar but I can take her home "one last time" to perhaps in that place find a moment of peace in the familiar faces or places she has in her memory. I read so many one size fits all directions on how to deal with Alzheimers but after 3 years I can be 100% sure of one thing this journey is unique to each person while there are some common theme even those themes are unique to each person SO I end where I began "listen to your loved one" treat them with respect , err on the side of giving them that moment of peace that second of safety that point in time where they might feel that they belong
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195Austin Jul 2011
These answers were great it is a very hard decision to make.
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Weatheb Feb 2012
What do you say to an elderly parent- 92 - who is living in a nice assisted living community and he says he wants to come live with me ? My Dad has some dementia, is in a wheel chair and is incontinent. There are two sets of steps in our house so it would not be possible for him to go up or down. My husband and I have just retired but both of us work part-time. We are gone from home a lot and want to start traveling a bit. How do I nicely explain to my Dad that he cannot live with us?
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