Dementia impacts short-term memory and directly causes repetitive behavior like repeated speech. Because this can be frustrating, it’s important to equip yourself with techniques on how to gracefully handle this situation with your senior loved one. Our Tapestries Memory Care team has put together a list of ways to respond when someone with dementia keeps repeating themselves, as well as tips on how to handle other common dementia behaviors.
Dementia behaviors and how to handle them constructively
- Know they have no control – Although our first instinct is to become annoyed when someone repeats themself, it’s important to remember that seniors with dementia have little or no control over this behavior. This can help ease our frustration and understand the behavior more patiently.
- Find the reason behind the repetition – Repeating a question can occur for several reasons – and it’s not usually because they have forgotten the answer. Usually, this behavior occurs due to stress, anxiety, fear, or discomfort. It may also be an indication of pain or illness. When repetition occurs, it’s a good idea to provide general reassurance and check that their physical needs are being met, and to run through a quick, basic wellness checklist.
- Respond to the emotion, not the words – Your loved one may be constantly asking when their husband will visit, or what happened on a particular day, but it’s better to focus on what emotions are causing their behavior rather than the words themselves. Addressing the emotions they are feeling rather than what they are literally asking about is much more likely to soothe them than an actual answer. Try a reassuring hug or hand squeeze while you respond.
- Be brief – Don’t answer your loved one the way you’d answer anyone without dementia. Instead, be as short and simple as possible, as this saves your energy and helps prevent both of you from getting frustrated. Also, don’t be afraid to lie if it will help resolve their emotional state. This may feel like a betrayal, but a gentle and considerate lie can be much more helpful and caring towards them than the truth, especially if it is a sad or traumatic truth. Nothing good can come from them reliving bad memories.
- Try a distraction – Try to break the pattern by distracting them with something helpful. For example, if they keep asking when they’ll be leaving their assisted living space to go back home, you can say that it’s soon, but it’s a good idea to have a snack and a rest before the journey. This way, they can refocus their mind on a different task and help support their health at the same time. You can also ask them a basic question to help create a distraction, like asking about the weather.
- Give yourself breathing room – It’s only human to get frustrated at your loved one and then get even more frustrated at yourself! As a caregiver, it’s important to give yourself space to step away from the situation. Do a quick calming exercise, take a few deep breaths, walk around the garden, or put on your headphones and listen to your favorite song. This will give you space to cool off and might even inspire you on new ways to assist your loved one.
Part-time and full-time dementia care in South Jersey
At UMC at The Shores, a United Methodist Communities assisted living campus, we offer exceptional memory care in beautiful Ocean City, NJ. We aim to create a safe, compassionate, and enjoyable space for seniors with dementia conditions, where quality of life is a priority. Our team is fully trained in techniques for dealing with dementia, for supporting memory health and wellness, and for helping families and loved ones navigate this illness.