As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, people often repeat the same question over and over – as if their mind is caught in an endless loop. This behavior can be tiresome for caregivers. But it is important to know that your loved one is not trying to annoy you. Instead, your loved one may be feeling insecure or fearful. They repeat questions to feel in control – a feeling that is being lost slightly more and more each day. Repetitive questions can drive you crazy, but it provides comfort to your loved one living with Alzheimer’s!
Here are a few tips for how to cope with repetitive questions & Alzheimer’s:
- Try to remain calm and patient and answer the question. Try to understand what they may be feeling. And, don’t point out that they have asked the same question repeatedly.
- After answering the question, redirect your loved one to a favorite activity or pastime. This can help get their mind off the question and also can help them to feel more secure and confident.
- It is helpful to beat them to the question! If Mom is always asking about her car keys. When you see her start fishing around in her handbag, give her an answer before she has to ask. Say something like, “Are you looking for your keys? I forgot to tell you that I had to bring your car to the mechanic and I’ve left the keys with them.”
- Use notes to jog memories. For example, if your Mom or Dad constantly asks what time dinner is, place a note with “dinner time” listed on the kitchen table or someplace else where he or she will see it throughout the day.
Many families coping with Alzheimer’s don’t want to “lie” to their loved one. But this is absolutely ok. For example, if your Dad is always asking for his brother, who passed away several years ago, it would be hurtful for him to hear that he had died; he would be in shock and mourning as if it were the first time he had been told. Consider simply saying that he is having lunch or playing golf with one of his friends and that he will be back later. This is a kind way to handle repeated questions about where someone is who has passed away.
It is important to maintain awareness of your own demeanor during these conversations as well. If you start to look or sound annoyed, your loved one may be more attuned to those nonverbal cues than what you are actually saying. Practice patience, understanding and good listening skills in order to better connect with your loved one. These 10 Dementia Communication Tips could prove to be a helpful resource.
Caregivers are under enormous stress. You may be struggling with how to handle your family member while feeling guilty and a profound sense of loss. Remember to take care of yourself! You can talk with friends, a counselor, or join a local support group to have a supportive place to voice your frustration and grief. Make sure you take adequate breaks from caregiving. When things get tough and you really need a break or want to go on vacation, forgo your guilt and take advantage of Alzheimer day care centers, in-home respite, and Respite Stays in Assisted Living communities and nursing homes.
How you communicate with someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will shape your interaction, so it is important to respond with kindness and compassion – it can go a long way in keeping a confused or aggravated situation from escalating.