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Responding to Repeated Questions

By Beverly Theis, Abe’s Garden Licensed Clinical Social Worker

It can be very frustrating when a loved one with dementia asks the same question over and over.  When that happens, take a deep breath and answer it again.  Then, you might want to try to redirect the conversation; start a new topic.  Ask something like, “Do you see the man down the street walking his dog?”  Go on to talk about the dog, and what types of dogs or pets your loved one has had in the past.  This may trigger some memories that may put new life into your conversation.   

Your loved one may not remember that they just said the same thing a few minutes or seconds ago.  People with dementia may often repeat themselves if a certain need hasn’t been met.  For example, your mom may say something like “I want to go home”.  You may already be home, but she may be needing to be comforted in some way.  It may help to provide reassurance that you want to make her comfortable, and you want her to feel safe. 

It might be a good idea to try to get a sense of the emotion behind what is being said by your loved one, and not just focus on what is being said.  Does your loved one seem frustrated?  If so, try moving on to doing something else.  Try an activity like having them help you wrap up a ball of yarn or reading together.  If your loved one seems anxious, try reassuring them and offering a cup of tea to relax.  Does it seem that your loved one just can’t remember certain things?  If they are still able to read and comprehend writing, try writing them notes, to remind them of the answers to their questions.

It may be good to consider a time of respite for yourself.  Abe’s Garden provides memory care options: At Home with Abe’s Garden (in-home caregiver training), Abe’s Garden Community Group (early stage dementia day program), and The Club (day program).

Bill Purcell, son of resident
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