Mom keeps asking me the same question over and over……Dad tells us a hundred times a day he needs to go to work (he’s been retired for 20 years)…..Dad insists on taking the car to the garage (we sold his car 3 years ago)…Mom thinks she has to cook a huge meal for our family (she thinks it’s Thanksgiving every day)… Aunt Josie wants to go home (to her grandmother’s farm house)…………..
Do these scenarios sound familiar? I bet they do.
Repetitive speech patterns and behaviors are very common for people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Why does this happen? Primarily because they are not able to remember that they just asked the same question 3 minutes ago or 10 minutes ago. We know they have short term memory loss, so it would make sense that they can’t remember if they have already asked such a question. To an Alzheimer’s patient, it’s as if they are asking the question for the first time.
The brain is no longer able to store information, conversations or experiences that have recently occurred. For individuals in the early stages of the disease process, sometimes they will be able to remember and at other times they won’t. This doesn’t mean that they are playing games with you or are trying to be difficult. It means that the storage capacity of their brain can’t hold this new information because there is no place to store it.
As Alzheimer’s disease continues to progress, people will be less able to remember the kinds of things you and I take for granted every day.
What to do:
The main things is to work on maintaining your patience. That is easier said than done, as we all know. For many patients this is phase that they are going through and it may not last for an extended period of time. As caregivers each time we hear the question or phrase we have to pretend that it is the first time we have been asked. Try to think of it as a song… we repeat lyrics over and over again in a song and it isn’t problematic for us. Think of those questions as a song your Mom or Dad repeats regularly.
Before you respond – Take a deep breath. This gives you an opportunity to gather yourself together and hopefully be able to respond in a calm manner.
Before you respond – Count to 10.
Before you respond – Think to speak calmly and softly.
Before you respond – Check the list of activities your loved one likes to do. (See the post “What Mom Likes to Do”)
Before you respond – Call another family member to step in and help.
Before you respond – Call a sibling on the phone so your Dad can talk with him/her.