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How to Respond When a Dementia Patient Keeps Repeating Themselves

dementia patient

It’s heartbreaking to see your loved one struggle with confusion as they get older. 

If you’re caring for a dementia patient, these conversation loops are even more dispiriting–and frustrating. 

But your frustration shouldn’t dictate your conversations with your loved one. Keep reading for a few tips on how to respond if your loved one repeats the same conversation over and over. 

Why Does Your Loved One Repeat Themselves?

First, though, it’s important to understand why your loved one is stuck in these conversation loops. 

The main cause of any behavioral change in an Alzheimer’s patient is the progressive deterioration of brain cells, which creates a steady decline in the individual’s ability to interact with the world. 

In many cases, your loved one may be repeating themselves because they don’t remember that they already asked a question or completed a task. But the cause is also a bit deeper than that. 

Because your loved one’s memory is deteriorating, they have an increasingly difficult time making sense of the world. This makes it harder and harder for them to find sources of comfort and familiarity. 

Repeatedly asking a question or completing an action can offer a degree of reassurance and manufacture a sense of security. 

It’s also possible that your loved one may be asking for help or trying to express a concern that they cannot adequately verbalize, leading them to instead repeat certain questions or actions to try to resolve the problem. 

Ways to Respond to Conversation Loops

This repetition can have a detrimental effect on your loved one’s social interactions and their ability to maintain healthy relationships.

It’s also deeply frustrating for you as a caregiver, as these repeated questions or actions can make it feel as if you’re shouting into a void. You want to offer them care on a day-to-day basis, but it’s easy to feel burned out and annoyed when you have to deal with the same question eight times in a day. 

Here are a few tips to help you respond when you find yourself in a conversation loop. 

Respond to the Emotions, Not the Words

When your loved one repeats a question over and over, it’s important to remember that they may not be asking because they want an answer to the question, per se. 

Instead, they’re seeking comfort and security, and the only way they know how to ask for it is to keep repeating the same question or action. 

Rather than replying to the words, which makes it easy to get irritated, focus on what emotions might be causing the repetition and respond to those instead. Are they anxious? Confused? 

If your loved one is anxious, try to soothe them with a brief hug or other comforting motion while calmly answering the question. This may help calm them enough that they don’t feel the need to continue asking. 

Validation Method

Another useful tool in your arsenal is the validation method.

Keep in mind that your loved one may not know what’s going on, and they may not remember when you try to correct them, so attempting to reorient them with reality may not do any good. If anything, it may confuse them even more. 

Instead of trying to snap them back to reality, acknowledge their version of what’s going on and try to gently dispel their anxieties without correcting them. 

For example, if your loved one says that the wall is green, does it really do any good to tell them that the wall is actually blue? You can agree that yes, the wall looks green from this angle–you’re validating them without shrugging them off. 

This can be difficult if your loved one’s beliefs are more harmful, like if they think there is a war going on because of coverage they saw on the news. Trying to dissuade them won’t help their anxiety, but you can’t pretend there’s actually a war going on, either, as this will only frighten them. 

Instead, acknowledge their concerns about safety and reassure them that there’s no danger in this area and that you’ll keep them safe. 

Keep Your Answers Brief

Regardless of how you deal with the situation at hand, it’s always best to keep your answers brief. 

It’s tempting to answer your loved one the same way you would answer anyone else, especially if you’ve known them your whole life. But you can’t talk to someone with dementia the same way as everyone else. 

You have to keep in mind that it’s difficult for someone with dementia to maintain long conversations and track long answers–they may not remember the whole answer by the time you finish giving it. 

The shorter the answer, the easier it is for them to process it. This also saves you time, energy, and frustration when you have to repeat the answer six more times. 

Take a Deep Breath

It’s difficult to keep your calm when you have to answer a question for the twelfth time or hear a story for the twentieth time that morning. You’re a human being, and there are limits to your patience, the same as anyone else. 

There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that you’re a person too. If you need to, there’s nothing wrong with taking a deep breath and removing yourself from the situation for a few minutes.

It’s frustrating, and it’s difficult to recall in the moment, but you have to remember that your loved one isn’t doing this to annoy you. Getting angry with them isn’t going to help. 

Take some time to step away. Fold the laundry, check your social media feed or email, or just sit in the bathroom for a few minutes. By the time you come back, you’ll have an easier time responding with kindness. 

Do You Need Help Caring for a Dementia Patient?

Caring for a dementia patient is a difficult undertaking, and it can wear on even the most patient, attentive caregiver. We know that seeking help from a memory care facility is not a decision you take lightly.

That’s why we take every step to treat your loved one with kindness while providing them with the supportive environment they need, including round-the-clock staff, an apartment-like home with premium safety features, and a group of their peers. 

If you need to find a memory care facility near you, don’t hesitate to get in touch. It’s a daunting road, but you don’t need to walk it alone.