By Gail J. Shaw,

Members attending our Alzheimer’s Support Group discuss many different types of challenges they have in caring for their loved ones with memory loss. Two of the challenges most discussed have been their loved one asking the same question over and over and then not remembering or being able to retain information.

It can be hard for a family caregiver or others to look at a person with memory loss and think they have a disease. Individuals with memory loss will appear to look normal to everyone, in the beginning. You may not even suspect a person has a problem until you spend some time talking to them. After a while, you may start to notice your friend or loved one repeats a lot or asks the same question during the conversation.

As the brain becomes more compromised due to Alzheimer’s, plaque and tangles form, the brain shrinks and the cells slough off and do not replenish themselves. Over time it becomes harder for the brain to remember or retain new information. We will notice individuals repeating questions, words or even activities. It’s not that they are trying to be difficult. They simply do not remember they have already asked the question or completed the activity. These behaviors are due to the disease.

As a family caregiver, you need to understand why your loved one keeps asking the same question after you have given the same answer for the umpteenth time. As the memory becomes worse, it will be harder for them to communicate with you. You may want to explore why they are asking the same question repeatedly. They may be trying to communicate a problem, ask for help or dealing with an anxiety. Maybe they are simply frustrated with a situation.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a few ideas
as to how to respond to repetition.

Look for a reason behind the repetition.

Does the repetition occur around certain people or surroundings, or at a certain time of the day?
Focus on the emotion, not the behavior.
Rather than reacting to what the person is doing, think about how he or she is feeling.

Turn the action or behavior into an activity.

If the person is rubbing his or her hand across the table, provide a cloth and ask for help with dusting.

Stay calm, and be patient.

Reassure the person with a calm voice and gentle touch. Don’t argue or try to use logic.

Provide an answer.
Give the person the answer that he or she is looking for, even if you must repeat it several times.

Engage the person in the activity.
The individual may simply be bored and need something to do.

Use memory aids.
Offer reminders by using notes, clocks, calendars or photographs, if they find it helpful.

Accept the behavior, and work with it. 

If it isn’t harmful, don’t worry about it. Find ways to work with it.

Family caregivers and others can easily become frustrated with frequent repetition. Hopefully by understanding why repetition occurs it will become less frustrating. And that will make your relationship with your loved one better. Just remember, they are probably as frustrated with their memory loss as you are with it-probably more so.

If caregiving has become too stressful, maybe it is time to enlist help from others. St. John’s Community Care offers Stress Busting classes. For more information, please contact us at 618-344-5008.