Loved ones who have Alzheimer’s, or other dementias, often exhibit repetitive behaviours such as asking the same questions, repeating actions, or telling the same stories over and over. Unfortunately, this can be very frustrating for friends and family who have to field the same questions or hear the same stories sometimes ten or twenty times in the same visit.
What we have to remember is that they are not doing it on purpose to annoy you, their short term memory means that they simply have no memory of what they have just said or done. There are a number of reasons for this repetitive behaviour; it can be brought on by stress, anxiety, frustration, or even fear. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients often feel unsettled, which is unsurprising as they live mostly uncertain as to where they are or what they were just doing, sometimes not recognising the people who interact with them every day.
However, it is completely normal to feel frustrated or annoyed when dealing with this kind of behaviour – so we’ve compiled a few techniques that you can use to respond to this repetitive behaviour. It will help relax your loved one, and hopefully make it more bearable for you!
- Respond to the underlying emotion
As we mentioned before, this behaviour is often as a result of an underlying emotion and without many other ways of expressing themselves our loved ones repeat themselves. Try and see past the words and register on the emotion beneath it; for example, if you pick up fear or anxiety give them a hug or squeeze their hand as you answer their question.
- The simpler, the better
It is natural to want to answer as you would to anybody else, with more detail and explanation. However, with a dementia patient the simpler the better as it saves you time, energy and helps reserve some patience.
- Try a welcome distraction
Sometimes the key to getting a loved one ‘unstuck’ from their cyclical questions and phrases is to introduce a welcome distraction. Try suggesting something they might enjoy, such as an activity like a short walk, a snack, or a cup of tea. Even asking them a simple question about the weather outside, or to join you in a simple chore like folding some washing can help to move their mind along.
- Provide some memory aids
Often when dementia patients share the same story over and over again it represents a highly significant memory that they wish to relive. Support them by giving them a way of recording information, such as encouraging them to keep a diary or write in a notebook. Other more visual reminders could be things such as scrapbooks or a large clock if they frequently ask what the time is.
- Take a break
You are human, so don’t be hard on yourself if you still feel like you are losing your cool! Give yourself a break if the incessant questions get too much for you; step outside for some fresh air, check your Facebook feed, or go and get a snack. It will give you a few minutes to cool off and you will feel a bit better before no time and be able to return.
The bottom line is it is not easy caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, and it takes a lot of patience – which we feel like we do not always have. Just remember that often when they ask questions, it’s not always for information but rather for reassurance from someone they trust. Next time it gets too much, just try these 5 techniques!