You may notice your dementia patient has begun repeating the same stories or activities frequently. They may even undo an activity or chore they’ve recently finished because they are unaware of their surroundings, or have forgotten that they’ve just completed it. Individuals with dementia tend to do this because they are looking for security, familiarity, and comfort. Another term for this phenomenon is known as “Dementia Looping”.
Repetition in dementia is due to a number of causes. Here are a few potential reasons:
There’s little point in attempting to correct or arguing with the patient. Be calm and reassuring when the behavior occurs, and remember that dementia primarily affects a person’s memory — they most likely don’t remember that they asked you the same or similar question only a few minutes ago.
Behavior that may seem strange to you usually has an underlying reason. Try to focus on what it is they may be feeling or attempting to communicate to you. Are there specific triggers causing the repetitive behavior, such as a certain person stopping by or a specific time of day?
After you’ve understood the underlying emotion behind their repetitiveness, be soothing and sympathetic. For example, if you think your loved one is feeling stressed, try calming them down by gently holding their hand or giving them a small hug while responding to and perhaps validating their statement. Remember that as long as the activity isn’t harming them or anyone else, they should be free to continue doing it — it likely provides a sense of comfort, security, or reassurance to them.
While this behavior can be incredibly frustrating to encounter, it’s important not to snap at the patient — they don’t remember that they’ve just asked you something! Keeping answers as simple as possible helps your care recipient to better understand you, and saves you time.
If it’s a very frequent occurrence, it may help to write the answer down and place it somewhere prominent in their living space.
If the cause of your dementia patient’s repetition seems to be due to boredom, try introducing some light exercise or other physical activity. If it’s a smaller behavior or tic, try giving them an activity related to the repetitive action, such as letting them sort some nearby knicknacks they keep moving around.
While repetitive behavior can be frustrating, it’s important to remember that your loved one is not intentionally trying to annoy or irritate you. They may be unaware of their surroundings and have forgotten that they have already asked a question. By following the tips provided, you can help manage their repetitive behaviors and make both of your lives easier. It’s important to stay patient and understanding as you navigate this challenging aspect of caring for someone with dementia.