How to Respond to Repetitive Questions in Dementia

How to Respond to Repetitive Questions in DementiaBecause Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia cause problems with short-term memory, those suffering from it tend to repeat the same thing over and over. This can, unfortunately, become a significant source of stress for caregivers, who may be tempted to snap in frustration eventually.

It’s important to realize that the older adult isn’t doing this intentionally, nor is he consciously trying to annoy you. Because their brain is sick, they are truly unaware that they sound like a broken record. That doesn’t take away the fact that it quickly becomes easy to lose your temper or go slightly crazy when you are around someone who does this for an extended period.

If you’re in this situation, your best strategy is to learn kind techniques that teach you to change the subject or stop the flow of questions gently. The next time you’re faced with a barrage of repetitive questions or statements, do your best to stay calm and use these four tips to respond in ways that help stop or minimize this behavior:

  1. Respond to the emotions rather than to the words. Your seniors are likely to repeat themselves repeatedly because they are experiencing feelings that need an outlet. If s/he is feeling anxious, try squeezing his or her hand or giving a hug. If you calmly respond to what is being repeated, it may soothe the person enough to alleviate his or her need to keep saying it.
  2. Keep your answers brief. It’s best to be short and sweet when responding to a question or comment by a person with dementia. Don’t give a longer-winded response than you would use with a healthy person, as you’ll likely be frustrated by realizing you’ve wasted both time and energy. Besides, you won’t be as exasperated if you repeat yourself multiple times.
  3. Distract with an activity. Sometimes, the only way to stop the barrage of repetitive questions is to distract the person with an enjoyable activity. You might want to offer a beverage or favorite snack or suggest that you both take a walk or run an errand. You could also ask a simple question to get the individual thinking about something else, such as, “Isn’t the weather beautiful today?”
  4. Escape for a few minutes. Everyone’s patience wears thin at times. This is especially true if someone has asked you the same thing for weeks. If you feel your frustration mounting and want to avoid altogether losing your cool, leave the room for a while to take a break. You could breathe fresh air, listen to a favorite song, or stretch and exercise. Once you’ve regained your composure, you can return to the room and be better equipped to manage your senior’s repetitive behavior with grace and kindness.

Even if you follow all these tips, you’re, of course, still human. If you do lose your temper despite your best efforts, it’s essential to forgive yourself, step back, and take a little break until you recover the patience needed to be around someone who constantly repeats himself or herself. Being around this challenging behavior is not for the faint of heart; you deserve a pat on the back for your efforts.