They’re not just trying to annoy you.
If you have a loved one with dementia, you’re likely very accustomed to being asked the same question several times a day. Though you do your best to answer it every time, their condition means they not only don’t remember your answer but likely don’t remember asking. Though this repetition can be frustrating, the following are four helpful ways to address a loved one with dementia asking the same questions over and over.
1. Firstly, the most obvious approach — just answer it.
You may find yourself frustrated with hearing and answering the same question over and over. When this takes place with a loved one with dementia, one of the easiest ways to handle seemingly harmless questions are is to simply answer them as though you also do not remember hearing such questions before. Remember — it is the condition that is causing them to forget your answers. Answering the same questions several times a day is likely the new normal. Coming to terms with this may save you a lot of grief.
2. A distraction to a suitable activity may be helpful.
Some questions can be quickly and easily answered. Other questions may result in complicated or disappointing answers that will be quickly forgotten — though the negative emotions from such answers may remain. To limit having to answer such questions, distracting your loved one from the question with a positive activity may be helpful. Some caregivers suggest a fun or safe activity such as a game or simple craft project. Others have reported that using a bit of humor can distract your loved one from their intention for asking such questions. Still, more caregivers have suggested asking the loved one if they would like to listen to some of their favorite music. These activities have the advantage of not only deflecting repetitious or anxious questions but also take the patient’s mind off any anxieties that inspired such questions — such as why they can’t drive their car or go out by themselves.
3. Direct their attention to a visual cue that answers their question.
Just because someone with dementia asks the same question does not mean that it cannot be answered in a meaningful way. One way to answer a question is by diverting its answer to a visual cue. If a loved one with dementia keeps asking about the date or the day’s activities, consider hanging an easily visible calendar on the wall that lists their scheduled activities. Not only will a calendar answer their questions in a satisfying way, but they may also grow conditioned to consult the calendar for such questions instead of repeatedly asking you.
4. Identify and remove what is triggering the question.
Very few dementia patients will suddenly shift behavior without a sufficient cue. The difficulty on behalf of caregivers is identifying which cues will trigger which behaviors — including the asking of repetitious questions. For instance, you may notice a loved one asking about a certain family member every time they go to the bathroom. Walking the same path, you may discover that they walk past a photo of this family member on their way back from using the bathroom. By moving the photograph or other cue to a location in the home with less regular traffic, you may reduce the repetition of such questions.
Remember — if you are frustrated, they are confused.
Despite which of these techniques you attempt to remedy the repetitious questions, remember that your loved one with dementia wouldn’t be asking if they weren’t genuinely confused. Keeping this in mind can greatly decrease any frustration you feel after being asked the same question for the third, fourth, or even twentieth time in a row.
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