We all know that when someone tells us the same story over and over again and asks us the same question about an upcoming event or what day it is, it is natural and likely to lead us to feel frustrated and often exhausted.
This can be a frequent occurrence in people living with dementia and knowing how to manage it can be particularly tough. Even having the knowledge that someone is living with dementia which can cause repetition, it can still be really difficult to know what to say and do.
Firstly, let’s look at some reasons why a person with dementia may be repeating themselves:
- They may have forgotten what they have said and done due to short-term memory problems.
- They may be feeling worried and unsettled and seeking comfort and reassurance.
- They may be struggling to familiarise themselves with their surroundings due to memory problems, confusion or perception changes.
- They may be experiencing boredom, struggling to find their ‘purpose’ and activities that they can engage with.
If someone is repeating the same question, it is mostly likely that they need reassurance of a situation or clarification that they haven’t missed an event or appointment. For example, if someone repeatedly asks what day it is they may need reassuring they haven’t forgotten something rather than really needing to know that it is Saturday.
Repetition can be one of the most exhausting and frustrating elements to both understand and manage, especially if you are a carer. It is useful to try and remember that the person does not intentionally wish to repeat themselves, however, they may begin to demonstrate frustration if they feel their questions are unanswered and are feeling anxious and insecure.
Tips for carers
- If the person is repeating questions like how, what, why, when? It is useful to try and be as patient as you can. It is fairly likely that they do not know that they have repeated themselves and may find it confusing if you seem impatient or frustrated.
- Try and find out if they need something – are they in pain or feeling lost or unfamiliar in their surroundings, or do they need the toilet? Or are they hungry or unwell. Is there a common theme to their questions?
- Try and note down the time and day when certain questions or stories arise as this may be useful in determining if a certain time of day causes the person to feel uneasy.
- Whiteboards, image prompts or notepads can be useful for writing down the date, day and time and basic facts so that when the person feels unsure, you can prompt them to take a look at this.
- It can also be good to encourage the person to answer the question themselves. For example, if the person is asking the time, you could consider buying an easy-to-read clock or watch that could help them.
About the author
“I am a Dementia Specialist and Trainee Counsellor with a Postgrad in Psychology of Dementia Care, Certificates in Counselling Skills, Mental Health Problems and Dementia and have carried out extensive suicide prevention training.
I am the Founder of the We Care Campaign, an Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador, Dementia Friends Champion and Blogger on all things dementia, mental health and caring.”