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How to Respond When Someone with Dementia Keeps Repeating Themselves

Female doctor showing geometric shapes to elderly patient

Dementia impacts short-term memory, so it can directly cause repetitive behavior like repeated speech. Although our first instinct can be to become annoyed or frustrated when someone repeats themself, it’s important to remember that seniors with dementia have little control over this behavior. It’s also important to equip yourself with techniques on how to gracefully handle this situation with your senior loved one. To help you out, our Tapestries Memory Care team has put together a list of ways to respond when someone with dementia keeps repeating themselves.

Look for the cause of repetition

While repetition is common amongst seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s, certain things may cause this issue to worsen. This can include:

  • Physical discomfort or pain
  • Stress or anxiety
  • A physical need not being met
  • Disruption or becoming unsettled

Knowing what’s at the root of your loved one’s repetition can help you anticipate it, prepare for it, and address it more effectively. Uncovering these contributing factors will help caregivers better understand what their senior parent is actually going through and correct or manage this underlying issue.

Consider emotional state, not the question itself

Start by objectively evaluating their emotional state rather than repeating the same answer over and over again (something that will leave you feeling understandably frustrated!). Often, this kind of behavior can be a result of feeling anxious or unsettled, and your loved one is looking for reassurance more than an answer to whatever it is they are asking. A hug, a hand squeeze, or another soothing action can help calm their anxiety and ease this behavior.

Introduce a distraction

Repeating a question can put your loved one in a loop that they need a little extra help getting out of. The best way to break the loop is to do something fun. An engaging distraction helps break this focus, move the thinking processes forward, and eases any stress. You can use anything your loved one tends to be very responsive to, from a favorite snack or activity to something as simple as drawing their attention to a beautiful flower or bird nearby.

Stimulate their mind with a helpful activity

In the same vein as distracting your loved ones, having them perform an activity they can do well is a great way to calm and ease the mind. It’s not just helpful for managing repetitive behaviors, it’s also fulfilling for seniors because it affirms usefulness and purpose – and it helps caregivers out too! It could be something as simple as folding laundry, baking cookies, helping with meal preparation, or helping a grandchild complete a task. All you need to do is make sure it’s safe and appropriate to their ability and interests.

Keep answers short and sweet

Try not to use long and complex explanations, as these aren’t just frustrating to repeat, they also may add to confusion or anxiety. If you’re taking your loved one to the dentist and they keep asking why they are in the car, for example, just say that you’re off to the dentist. There’s no need to explain why you’re going to the dentist, what they are going to do there, or anything else. It may seem unfair or insufficient at first, but it delivers a key answer that is easy to say and easier for your loved one to grasp. Keep your tone gentle and light-hearted, and you’ll find it easier to soothe your loved one.

Take a break when needed with professional memory care in South Jersey

It’s absolutely normal to feel frustrated, drained, and even angry when a loved one keeps repeating themselves. You’re only human, after all! To avoid snapping, ease your own stress, and manage your response, it’s important to take a break when you can. If you’re having a challenging week, think about calling in a friend or family member to help you out. If you’re a sole caregiver,  it may be a good idea to think about professional respite care near you. These experienced caregivers understand and work extensively with seniors with memory loss, and can provide a fully trained resource for caregivers to rely on.

At The Shores, leading providers of memory care in Cape May County, we provide on-site, full-time memory care for residents through our Tapestries program, as well as on-site respite care. With activities, social events, outings, and more, we’re proud to help families and their loved ones with dementia live full, stimulating, and rewarding lives. Contact us today to find out more about techniques for dealing with dementia or memory care in South Jersey, or visit our website at

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