Caring for dementia patients can present many challenges. One of the least harmful but still challenging issues centers around the repetition that usually accompanies dementia.
Dementia often causes sufferers to repeat words or actions. Sometimes they may repeat a single word, sometimes an entire sentence, and sometimes a simple or complicated action. In most cases, this activity presents no danger, but it can quickly become irritating to a caregiver, especially if the repetition occurs while the caregiver needs to be able to focus his or her mind on a particular task. A simple question such as “What’s for dinner?” can become grating when asked eight or nine times in a row as a caregiver is on hold to make an important doctor’s appointment.
Strategies for coping
If you care for a dementia patient who exhibits such behavior, you may find the suggestions below invaluable.
Look for patterns. Sometimes patterns develop and may provide clues as to why repetition is occurring. If repetition occurs at the same time every day, perhaps the individual is tired or feels lonely at that time of day.
Try to find out why. The repetition may occur because the patient seeks to communicate a totally different idea but can’t figure out how, for example.
Stay calm. In most cases, the person is not trying to cause irritation; try to remember this and to respond patiently. Remember that he or she most likely does not remember having asked the question several times before. Give the information that is requested, and accept that it may need to be given again.
Use reminders. For those individuals for whom visual reminders are effective, use clocks, calendars, signs, and notes to convey information that is repeatedly requested.
Make use of actions. Try to find ways that repetitive actions can fulfill a useful purpose. For example, if a person moves a hand from side to side, consider asking him or her to dust. Putting a movement to a practical physical use may make the patient feel better.
Look for signs of boredom. Repeated words may indicate that the person feels bored. Find activities that can keep him or her engaged in a way that is rewarding.
Express your frustrations to others. If the repetition becomes too much, talk to others about this. Vent to a family member or friend, or join a physical or virtual dementia support group. It’s important not to deny those feelings or keep them bottled up inside.
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