The topic of “Home” is back in the wind again. I have noticed an influx of new articles writing about how to respond to someone who states they want to go home, and how to look at aging in place (and its meaning) or moving into a care community. In my own life the last of the homes I knew as a child has sold. Now, both of my grandparent’s homes and the one I spent most of my childhood in are no longer in our family. New places are called home and the swirl of boxes still fill our days.
I find myself longing for home, the physical place and the memories that filled that place. I find myself longing for the people who were home. I find myself longing for my spiritual home, the parish that I grew up in and the one that filled its place after it was time to move on. Home is so many things and as diverse and there are people, not this planet. Home includes the physical structure sure, but also the items that fill the home that carry a story. Home is the people and the emotions experienced at your house or the homes of loved ones. Home is the church you attend and the community you choose to invite into your lives. Home is a place in our memory and one we can go back to still today.
When one calls out for home, it is our job to be curious and compassionate. We are called to be explorers, to see how we might fill this moment and this place with a sense of home. Is the individual referring to the physical structure or the feelings and memories created in those places? Is it the home they lived in as children? As young adults? Raised their family in? Or last lived in? Is home Heaven? How do we, as partners in care, help provide that same comfort, safety, or joy in each individual’s current place of residence?
Our job is to become relational with these individuals, understanding what brings them joy, what memories they long for, and the type of people they want to surround themselves with, the faith community they want to be apart of, and the type of items of meaning they want in their space.
The topic of Home is complex and not always easy to navigate. By becoming relational with the individuals (with dementia or not) who are asking to go home, we can learn what they mean by “home” and profoundly impact their day, if not their life by helping them find home in this moment.