When caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of demential, dealing with repetition is inevitable. Those in your care might ask a question over and over, or repeat the same story multiple times. It’s important to remember that dementia alters the memory in ways that someone with the disease simply cannot change. So it’s up to you to find ways for dealing with any irritation you might experience.

Why it happens

Understand that people with Alzheimer’s are likely unaware that they are repeating themselves. Dementia affects a person’s ability to remember what was just said, or something that just occurred. Therefore, repetition is often a sign that someone is struggling to remember a recent conversation or event.

Repetition can also signal that a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia feels anxious or afraid. Being in an unfamiliar setting or around new people can trigger nervousness, and excessive talking is a way to cope with fear. In turn, the desire to have something to say can lead to repeating what was already said.

Sometimes, those with Alzheimer’s repeat themselves to get attention. Other times they might be attempting to express an unmet need, such as hunger or the urge to use the bathroom. Frustrated to express themselves, they become repetitive as a way to communicate what they are unable verbalize.

Whatever the reason behind repetition, learning how to cope with it as a caregiver is essential.

What to do

Rather than becoming annoyed at someone in your care who repeats things, try remaining supportive. Keep in mind that repetition is a disease effect, and work to channel your energy into learning and practicing ways to deal with the frustration that it presents. Reminding people with dementia that they are repeating themselves will only increase their anxiousness. As a result, they’ll begin doubting themselves and become even more likely to repeat things.

Many questions that those with Alzheimer’s tend to repeat relate to their schedules. For example, someone might ask multiple times when an upcoming doctor’s appointment is, even after you have already provided the answer. Try posting notes and reminders in frequently visited places, which can help provide written answers to questions before they’re asked. Erasable “white boards” make it easy to add and remove information as it changes.

In addition to providing written reminders, look for ways you might steer conversations away from topics often repeated. Try suggesting activities the person enjoys, such as taking a walk, listening to music, or watching television. Avoid bringing up topics that cause apprehension, such as doctor’s visits or bathing, until just before they happen.

It helps those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia to be around people who remain patient with them despite behaviors they can’t control. So, improving your ability to maintain ease and levelheadedness around them is important.

Stay calm

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a mentally strenuous job. That’s why it’s important to stay calm and remind yourself that, no matter how aggravating the repetition can be, dementia is to blame—not the person in your care.