What to Do When Your Loved One with Dementia Keeps Repeating Things

Elderly patient with dementia next to a doctor

If you’ve been living with a loved one with dementia for quite a while now, you’re probably too familiar with the fact that they tend to say or ask the same things over and over again. Sometimes, it’s funny, having to remind your aging parent what day it is. Other times, it’s frustrating, especially if you’re the sole caregiver, doing everything for them — bathing, dressing, and feeding — and sometimes, being at the receiving end of stealing accusations.

With many responsibilities, the last thing you want is someone asking you non-stop questions about what day it is. The exasperation is understandable. It’s also important to keep a communication that’s understanding of your loved one’s condition. With that, here are some techniques you can use to deal with your relative:

Respond to the Underlying Feelings

Dementia patients say the same things because they’re usually experiencing stress, frustration, or anxiety. Brain functions are declining, especially the ability to remember, so they’re constantly in a state of uncertainty about what’s happening, where they are, or what day it is. When they keep telling you the same things, try to know the feelings behind their words.

If they’re anxious, reassure them of their safety, then give them a slight squeeze on the hand or a hug. Sometimes, that’s enough to stop them from asking repeatedly. Of course, you can also take steps in preventing anxiety. Change the environment they’re in. In patients who have sundowner’s syndrome, therapists who provide professional Alzheimer’s care use fluorescent lights and close off windows to get rid of shadows causing confusion.

Keep Your Answers Short and Simple

Nurse with an elderly woman with dementia

Avoid lengthy responses to their questions. Long answers might just open up a lot more questions. Plus, you’ll only make yourself tired explaining everything to your relative. Save time and energy for responsibilities you have to focus on.

To keep your replies short, use the validation method. This communication strategy simply means telling your loved one’s statements back to them. Rather than insisting that your kitchen cabinets are brown, give in to their statement and say that they do look green.

With this, you won’t have to go to great lengths of explaining why the furniture need to be brown, getting into the science of aesthetics and whatnot. Just drop the conversation altogether by “surrendering” to them. Note that the validation method only applies to those conversations that won’t affect their health and safety, though.

Use Distractions

Sometimes, changing the subject of your conversation will also help in keeping them from saying and asking the same things. Ask them about the weather. Tell them about a friend who has done something recently that might interest them. Mention to them their grandchildren. Distractions can also take the form of an activity. Give them something they can focus on, like perhaps letting them eat or taking them out in your garden. The bottom line is present an alternative thought they could concentrate on.

It’s exasperating to keep up with caregiver duties, especially when you’re bothered by non-stop stories or questions. Consider getting respite care so you can take a break once in a while. Remember that you can only give the care you receive, so don’t neglect the importance of self-care.


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