“Goin’ home, goin’ home, I’m a goin’ home;
Quiet-like, some still day, I’m jes’ goin’ home.
It’s not far, jes’ close by,
Through an open door;
Work all done, care laid by,
Goin’ to fear no more.”
These are the opening lines from the song, “Goin’ Home,” based on the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s famous “Largo” theme from his Symphony No. 9 (From the New World), Op. 95. These lyrics were written by one of Dvorak’s pupils, William Arms Fisher (1861-1948), who adapted and arranged the Largo theme. (Source: American Music Preservation.com)
Wanting to “go home” is a common behavior of persons with Alzheimer’s. Dementia care experts tell us that the “home” a person wants to return to is their childhood home. The need to “go home” often signals a need for privacy, for comfort, for security.
In Part 1, I explored ideas how to identify and address your loved one’s needs when they express this urge. It was based on ideas gleaned from caregivers and from experience with my own mother. In Part 2, I hope to guide you in a self-introspection, a reflection where you imagine you are the one wanting to “go home again.” Find about fifteen or twenty minutes when you are free of your responsibilities. Next, settle into a place where there will be no intrusion. If you are ready, then let’s begin.
Gently close your eyes and focus on your breathing. When you breathe in, feel your body relax. When you breathe out, feel the tensions leaving your body. Become aware of how your body is becoming calm and relaxed.
Now, go to your inner space where you are free from any difficulties. Indulge in the feeling of well being, and a feeling of being at one with the world.
Recall a time in your life when you were away from your home and had a yearning to return home. What was it like for you then? Did you desperately wish to return home and couldn’t wait to get back there?
Now, hear you own inner voice saying, “I want to go home.” Just hearing the word “home” evokes certain memories for you.
Is there a certain degree of comfort that comes with uttering these words? Do you find it soothing? Does it evoke emotions deep in your heart, such as a feeling of security in knowing there is a place where you belong? Are you longing for that overwhelming sense of familiarity: the feelings that come from having close relationships; treating everyone as equals; the familiar habits and rituals; knowing what to expect of others and what they expect of you; knowing there is a structure of which you are a part?
You will have other thoughts that emerge at this time which subscribe to the statement, “I want to go home.” What is it about these attributes that are like a magnet pulling you in that direction? Are you missing the gentle touch of a close and loving relationship? Try to identify as many possible aspects that you can.
After a few minutes, allow this scene to gradually fade out and focus on your breathing.
Now, gradually “crawl into the skin” of your loved one. Take as long as you can to experience what this might be like. You are wearing the same clothes. You have the same mannerisms, the same gait, etc.
As you “become” your loved one’s persona, you can hear your own voice saying to yourself, “I want to go home.” What are you feeling when you say these words? What is missing in your life that you want to recapture? What precipitated this request of “wanting to go home?” Was it a momentary sense of familiarity, like déjà vu, or somewhere in your being where there is this treasure of home – a place where you belong?
Stay in this phase as long as you wish, allowing information to emerge. Then gradually “crawl out” of the skin of your loved one and back into your own.
Focus your awareness on your breathing. Become aware of the value of this experience. What have you discovered about yourself? What have you discovered about your loved one? What have you discovered about the universal human need for a place to call “home?”
Now, when you hear your loved one tell you, “I want to go home,” will you hear these words any differently? What has changed for you? How was this change brought about? You may want to write down your reflections. This will make it easier, then, to read back from time to time your insights gleaned from this meditation.
Blogger and caregiver, Bob DeMarco, posted an article on this topic on his popular website, Alzheimer’s Reading Room, October 27, 2013. He responded to his mother’s request by telling her, “I don’t want you to go anywhere. I want you to stay here with me.” He wrote that it took time for his mother to come around, but by reinforcing this many times with warmth and love, his mother felt secure enough and eventually stopped making this request.
The lyrics of the song, “Goin’ Home,” are a powerful sentiment that springs from the nostalgia of the soul that all humans feel:
Mother’s there ‘spectin’ me,
Father’s waitin’ too;
Lots o’ folks gather’d there,
All the friends I knew,
All the friends I knew.
Home, I’m goin’ home!
I hope the ideas of Part 1, along with the meditation of Part 2, bring you peace, patience, and joy in your caregiving today and every day!
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Special thanks goes to my mentor and friend, Merle Stern, for composing the original meditation that I adapted for this blog.
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Listen to a rendition of “Goin’ Home” sung by Libera, the famous English boys’ chorus: https://youtu.be/o2aLSat3h0w.
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My friend and poet Priscilla Dunning expresses the nostalgia for “home” of a frail elderly woman in her poem:
Not So Golden
In the blink of an eye,
she became old.
Not the retire-to-golf and free-time
and travel to exotic places kind of old.
You see it in the “Golden Years” ads filled
with smiling Seniors
going off to some “fun in the sun.”
Her kind of old was like a thief
breaking in with silent feet,
rifling through the drawers of her mind,
replacing the contents with forgetfulness,
stealing her health and her home,
leaving behind the need for relocation.
Like a burglar, this kind of old crept in
through the window.
It robbed her of independence and left her unsettled.
It swindled her of energy and happiness and
reshaped her future—
replacing it with desperate uncertainty and longing
to return home.
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