My Dad’s a Goldfish – Going home

The DH drops the Goldfish off after he’s been at day care. He doesn’t say much as I welcome him in and help him to settle in his armchair. I ask if he would like the television on and he says yes. I head back to the kitchen where I was cooking our evening meal and chat to him through the open door as I stir things.

He appears in the kitchen and looks into the pot. “That looks very nice, dear, but don’t bother making any for me. I’ll have to be getting off home.”

Maybe I should have played along (don’t argue, don’t confront the person with his/her delusion) but the words were out before I could stop myself. “But you live here. You’re at home.”

“If you say so, dear,” says the Goldfish as he heads for the door. By the time I catch up with him, he’s half way up the drive. Astonishing how fast he can move when he wants. I try to persuade him to come inside using a variety of reasons from it being too cold to be out to the tea nearly being ready. However, he is insistent he is going home.

By this time we’re at the gate and he turns right and pauses beside the car. I wonder for a brief moment if he thinks he is going to drive home but he tries to open the passenger door so it seems he expects to be driven.

“I’ll just run back to the house for the car key,” I say, hoping he doesn’t decide to start walking to wherever he thinks home is by the time I get back. I turn off the cooker, grab handbag, keys and jacket for the Goldfish and rush back. He is still waiting. I persuade him to put his jacket on and we get in the car. I set off – not knowing where I am supposed to be going.

I drive, chatting about the weather and maybe going out somewhere the next day round the roundabout. The Goldfish isn’t very responsive. When I reach the edge of town, I drive round the roundabout a couple of times, saying, “We’re nearly home now. This is us on the road back. Soon be there.”

“Oh, are we nearly there?” he asks.

I turn back into our road, telling him where we are. No response. I drive past the house. “Are you going to turn at the school?” he asks. I sigh with relief that he recognises where we are. He’s back. I park up, help him out the car and we make our way – very, very slowly – back into the house.

“Do you want to sit at the table and keep me company while I get our tea ready,” I ask. He sits at his place and drinks some juice while I resurrect our meal. He tucks in with obvious enjoyment and when he’s cleared his plate says yes to a helping of apple crumble and custard. “But, I’ll have to be going soon. It’s about time I went home.”

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24 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – Going home

    • Thank you for that comment. I wasn’t sure how it would come across. You are right, he had his own logic – it was remembering to accept it which was sometimes difficult. So many times I heard myself saying “But….” before taking time to think it through first.

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    • Hello Ruth. We never really knew where ‘home’ was. When I was taking part in an Alzheimer project (making a DVD for new carers of someone with dementia) someone was talking about his wife always wanting to go home. He said he’d realised it wasn’t necessarily a physical place. It was more that the person was trying to express they were unhappy and ‘home’ meant happiness so they wanted to go there. I can see that.
      And, yes, he would be nicely full for his next stage of the journey. We were lucky he never lost his enjoyment of food.

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  1. Mary, this is an absolute gem of a post. It describes our lives, our decisions, our mistakes, the incredible patience that is involved in giving care to our confused loved ones. Trying to understand what is happening is impossible, yet the very same thing happens to EVERY ONE of them. GOING HOME. If someone could just find out the reason for the “going home” events, I think we would understand a lot more about Alzheimer’s. Why do they always feel lost?

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  2. I like the idea that going home means trying to find a place that is understood, known, familiar, and without the mix ups, the confusion, the muddy waters, the angst. I just wonder if left to their own devices, or free to dictate a route, some would return to childhood or earlier homes or places. I prefer the former though. Seems to make sense. The concensus seems to be to go along with the story, otherwise the person will just be more confused. I struggle with that slightly. But everybody seems to advise it. Fascinating as always Mary. xx

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    • Janette, I can see the sense in not contradiciting a person in a way that will lead to further confusion or to the person feeling he/she is not being believed – but I think it depends so much on circumstances. I don’t believe there is a ‘one size fits all’ answer to this, which means we muddle along doing the best we can. I have a friend (who also blogs and often pops into this one) whose mum sometimes thinks the terrorists on the television are going to come and kill everyone in the night. You can’t simply go along with that and agree with her, can you? She’d be even more terrified. I think sometimes the people who write the books and give the advice we are supposed to follow don’t have first-hand experience. No easy answers, I’m afraid.

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        • I’ve heard of similar behaviour. Dad never did that but for a time was very suspicious of my husband and thought he’d come to steal his money or that he wanted to be paid whenever he did something to help. We were lucky that phase did not last for too long.

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  3. Having read Going Home Mary I find it so difficult to believe your brain can do this , you really have helped me to understand a little about this horrible disease ,my dad was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s but died before it got to be a big problem , thank you for sharing your story love May x

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    • Thanks, May. It really is quite staggering what the brain can do – and the things it can no longer do. I don’t know if scientists will ever fully understand what happens when a person has dementia. I hope they do – and soon. Thanks for commenting. Love, Mary x

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  4. This is starting to creep in too with MIL – though to be fair it’s not all that long since she moved and only about three times when she’s been in “crisis mode” (cystitis?). She recognises all her belongings and furniture even then, but it doesn’t seem to compute that they are all in her flat for a reason and she hasn’t just taken them all “on holiday” with her…

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    • Dad had lived in his house since 1961 so it and its contents were very familiar to him – but he suddenly wanted to go ‘home’. You might have the added problem of not knowing if MIL wants to go back to her previous home or is she is wanting this mysterious ‘home’ which I think is a shorthand way of saying ‘I’m unhappy with my life, and I want to be happy so I have to go home.’
      And, yes, an infection does increase confusion. We knew when dad was about to get a chest infection before any medical symptoms appeared because he would be more confused and his memory would go.

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