What do I do if my aging loved one asks repetitive questions?
How to navigate an endless question loop
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect the brain — which means they often cause problems with short-term memory. This can lead to repetitive behaviours, such as asking the same questions over and over again. Though your elderly loved one doesn’t mean to be annoying, it can get quite frustrating to answer them gently and patiently.
Why do dementia patients repeat the same questions over and over again?
Since a dementia sufferer’s brain is deteriorating, the individual’s ability to make sense of the world declines over time. Not only may they be forgetting they’ve already asked a certain question, they may also be trying to express a specific concern. Oftentimes, repeating the same questions is a way to cope with the anxiety of not understanding their environment.
How to react to repeated questions
- Look for a reason: Try to see if you can decipher the reasoning behind the repeated question. For example, note if it happens at a certain time, around certain people, or in a certain setting. That way, you will know how to avoid the triggers.
- Consider how they are feeling, not what they are asking: If you focus on the emotion as opposed to the action, you may be able to pinpoint what it is that is causing stress. You may then be able to relieve it to stop the repetitive questions.
- Remain calm: This one seems obvious, but remaining patient is key to keeping your loved one calm as well. Combining your response with soothing touch (like a hug or hand hold) may be all you need to do to alleviate what is bothering them.
- Keep your response short: Learn to deliver a brief and simple response, so it’s easier to respond to many times over.
- Distract with an activity: Sometimes, distracting your loved one with an activity they enjoy – or a simple chore – helps with the incessant questions. Ask them to help you with laundry or hand them a puzzle to calm their uneasy mind.