Managing Repetitive Requests and Questions

As dementia progresses many people ask repetitive questions.  Because of their memory loss, they may not remember the answer, nor having asked the question.  How do you respond when your loved one asks for a relative or friend they do not remember is deceased?

Importantly, be reassuring and remember the truth is not always the best approach.  Telling someone with memory loss that someone died will likely result in a response such as “nobody told me that” followed by confusion and/or grieving.  Imagine how awful it would be to repeatedly grieve over the loss of a parent who likely has been gone for a long time. 

 “Your mother loves you.  She misses you too,” is a suitable response. Then change the subject.   

Deceased pets are another common issue for those with dementia.  Pets are like family for many of us and we grieve when they die.  People with dementia may not remember that a pet died and may ask where the pet is.  Again, it is important to be reassuring, and not tell them the pet died or they may grieve all over again.  Tell them the dog is out for a walk with a friend or taking a nap.  Consider sharing a quick story about the pet before changing the subject.  For some people missing pets, a visit to the animal shelter might be comforting.

With dementia comes a loss of remembering when or what one had to eat.  They may ask to eat again within a short time of having a meal.  Their brain no longer recognizes the signal of a full stomach.  Again, be reassuring.  “We will be having lunch soon,” is a good response, even if breakfast was recently finished.  Offer them a cracker, a few grapes, or the like, and change the subject or distract them with a new activity.

We know it is difficult to not feel frustrated by repetitive behaviors but do your best to keep your voice at a normal tone and volume.  Everyone will feel better with less tension in the air. 

Be sure to get your needs met as a caregiver.  Caregiving is an exhausting job.  Remember, it is hard to get it right all the time.  Do your best and cut yourself some slack.

 “People won’t remember what you said or what you did but they will remember how you made them feel.”