On several of the dementia sites, you usually find someone posting frustration and aggravation over their loved one’s constant repeating. Today someone asked, “At what stage are they in when they repeat all the time?” I responded with, “Early, get ready for lots of adjusting; they can’t.”
It was obvious that this caregiver had just taken their seat on this roller coaster and their ride was just about to begin.
I worked as a home caregiver for a couple years and found the repeating of a person with dementia made my work easier. I needed to continually find ways to communicate and engage them. It’s often difficult to find new topics to talk about especially if their cognitive abilities were waning. But the repeating made it easy. I’d simply give them the same answer to their repetitious question or converse again about what we’d talked about earlier. It became automatic for me and the time I spent with them actually was very enjoyable.
I understand for an overworked 24/7 family caregiver this can be awfully annoying and wear on one’s already frazzled nerves. However, you need to adjust to this because like I wrote, they can’t. Getting irritated or angry and saying things like, “You already asked me that five times!” won’t help you or them.
Their brain’s neuronal connections often get the signal stuck. This is true of repetitive movements, uncontrollable wandering, and the commonly repeated, “I want to go home.” For the most part, it is all about redirecting them to something else and the signal in the brain goes past the block. For repeated questions, what I have found is when you just automatically answer that particular question’ it seems to get asked less. It’s not about the question its about you having an answer and letting them know someone does. This doesn’t mean they won’t repeat other things but at least for now, you both move on.
Successful caregiving is about being able to adapt to change. When you get upset, they feel this, and depending on the stage of dementia usually can’t reason why you are upset. A repercussion of this can result in behavior problems, depression, or withdrawal. And that’s when the roller coaster takes a dive; taking you both with it.
Repeating is often early in the progression and it’s a good time for caregivers to practice adjusting. Do whatever you need to do to keep calm. Meditate, spend time in the garden, watch comedies not news, and hug and laugh with your loved one a lot. You both need this.