People with Alzheimer’s may repeat things…a lot
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias cause problems with short-term memory. This can lead to repetitive behaviors, like asking the same question over and over again. Your loved one isn’t doing it on purpose to annoy you, they truly have no memory of asking the first or the twentieth time.
While you may answer patiently the first few times, you may not after hearing the same thing over and over, it’s natural to lose your temper. That’s why it’s important to know why they are asking over and over so the chance of losing your patience diminishes.
Why someone with Alzheimer’s is repeating questions
Repetitive behaviors are often caused by stress, anxiety, frustration, or fear. People with Alzheimer’s or dementia are often unsure of what’s happening, where they are, or what time or day it is. Those are pretty unsettling feelings. So you see, your loved one isn’t repeating questions because they need the information. They’re asking because they’re feeling stressed or anxious and need reassurance.
4 ways to respond when someone with Alzheimer’s repeats questions
1. Respond to the emotions, not the words
When your loved one starts to repeat a question over and over, try to guess what feelings might be causing the behavior. If they might be feeling anxious, giving a brief hug or hand squeeze while calmly answering the question may soothe them enough to stop their need to keep asking.
2. Keep your answers brief
It’s tempting to answer a question from a person with Alzheimer’s the same way you’d answer anybody else. But the shorter and simpler your answer, the better. It saves you time and energy and reduces your exasperation when you have to repeat it five more times.
3. Distract with an activity
Sometimes the only way to get your loved one with dementia to stop repeating a question is to distract them with something they enjoy. Maybe that means offering a snack or favorite beverage.
Or, you could ask them a simple question to get them thinking about something else, like “The sky is blue today, isn’t it nice?” Another idea is to ask them to help you with a simple chore they’re still able to do, like folding laundry.
4. Escape for a few minutes
It’s tough to keep your cool and not snap at someone when you’ve been asked the same question for the tenth time. Everyone’s patience runs out at some point, especially if this isn’t the first time it’s happened today.
Sometimes you just need to leave the room for a few minutes. Go to the bathroom, get a quick breath of fresh air, or check your Facebook feed. By the time you come back, you’ll have had some time to cool off and will be better able to handle your loved one's behavior with kindness.