Repetitive questions

“When are we going out?” A reasonable question under normal circumstances. But if the person you care for has dementia, you may get this question multiple times in an hour. Aargh! Indeed, repetitive questions are one of the top irritants mentioned by family caregivers whose loved one has dementia.

The repetitive questioning isn’t done intentionally, of course. Your family member simply can’t remember the answer you gave them even just a few minutes before.

  • Look for the emotion behind the question. People with dementia often feel anxious, confused, and left out. They don’t understand what is happening around them. The person asking “When are we going out?” is likely experiencing significant worry about change.
  • Remain calm and reassuring in your answers. A frustrated reply makes their anxiety worse. The most reliable remedy is to provide reassurance in a calm voice and with a gentle touch.
  • Write out the answer: “At 3:00 this afternoon, we are going to the doctor’s.” Post the reply somewhere obvious. The next time he or she asks, you can say “Check the white board by the refrigerator. The answer is there for you.”

Other tips:

  • Remove triggers in the environment. For example, avoid displaying special “going out” clothes until it’s time to get dressed.
  • Avoid discussing an event that is going to happen in the future. Instead, let your loved one know that day or just the hour before.
  • Keep simple tasks at the ready as a distraction. Folding the laundry, sorting screws, sweeping the porch are examples of activities that engage attention and allow your relative to feel helpful.

If you find yourself fed up and getting angry, leave the room. Take a few minutes to compose yourself. Repetitive questions are normal in dementia. Best to accept the fact and train yourself to safely let off steam away from your relative.