After a week away, sleeping on an air mattress and moving around new and unfamiliar places my thirteen year old said, “Mum, I am so happy to be home. I just love being here….Can we not go away again…?”
This whole concept of being home and sense of home is not about a place as much as it is about a feeling. If we think about pre-historic or even early 18th century times, home was a mountain range or river bank with a fire and people we knew. Today it is usually a space with things in it, close to the mountain range (services like doctors, and plumbers) and river bank (meeting places, shopping centres, grocers). Most of all it is a place that is our own organised space, where we truly feel like we belong.
Even though our trip away to the beach was fabulous and we all “felt at home” my daughter’s sense of returning home and wanting to be there was more about the feelings associated with being home than the actual physical habitat (okay, the Nintendo, Netflix, full fridge and big screen TV helps).
My mum is 76. For the past two years she has been returning to her birthplace of Samos. A small Greek island that she left at age 15. This year she plans to spend another month in her village. The village of her childhood. She explained to me that when she is home (Samos) she feels calm, well and at peace.
What this all helps to show is that there’s a big psychological difference between feeling at home and being home.
The concept and feeling of home also helps us to understand the often overwhelming resistance and fear people feel when faced with the decision or likelihood of having to leave their home because of their care needs.
No matter how good a residential care facility is at helping people feel “at home” – all they are doing is lessening the feeling of “not belonging” or “not home” during a person’s stay. The undeniable truth is that people have an instinctive need to choose, create, belong, stay and return to their home. Our job in the social care sector is to support this instinct.