How to Respond When Your Loved One Repeats Themselves

You just never really know why someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia repeats the same question or comment over and over. Is it really simply a lack of short-term memory or are there other possible reasons?

How to Respond When Your Loved One Repeats Themselves

Equally important is your response to the behavior, which is likely not what it seems on the surface. Some things to think about;

  1. The person being repetitive is not doing it on purpose or to annoy you.
  2. Try responding to the emotion, not the words. Sometimes repeating questions is triggered by an unmet need or difficult emotion – hunger, pain, fear, or confusion.
  3. Your patience will, inevitably be tested when this happens, and your inner frustration does little more than create stress and anxiety for you.
  4. Be aware when you hear yourself being short, or ignoring the person repeating herself. Opt for kindness whenever possible
  5. If you lose your patience for a moment and snap at the person, you both will feel a lot worse (everyone snaps at some point – it is only human!).
  6. Following the “snap”, find a simple way to repair – change the conversation or even better, take a short walk together outdoors, engage in a project or game together 
  7. If you do snap, remember self-compassion; this is not an easy road and the behavior can be, in fact, annoying, even if unintentional. 
  8. Start to use strategies to help you navigate these thorny moments. Begin by reading #’s 1 through 7 above. Take a time out and take three deep breaths.
  9. Keep answers to redundant questions brief. Lengthy explanations are usually lost on someone with dementia. 
  10. Ask if your person would like to help you with a task – fold laundry, put silverware away, or something they are still able to accomplish. 

Staying calm and kind (both to yourself and your loved one) is a practice, like playing a musical instrument or doing yoga. We practice to be better. Reminding yourself to have realistic expectations of your own responses as well as the behaviors of your loved one is worth a little extra effort. Isn’t it interesting how at the end of the day, it’s all an “inside job”?

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