[Skip to Content]
Best Places to Work 2017 Employees' Choice Award   SEE MORE

Managing Repetitious Behaviors in a Parent with Dementia

Posted by Kathy Stewart
Date:

people with dementia often repeat behaviors, here's how to deal with that behavior

Are you caring for your mom with Alzheimer’s and you’re exasperated by the repetitive questions that she asks over and over?   Are you frustrated by your Dad removing all the clothing from his drawers and then putting them back all day long?   One of the most frustrating issues for caregivers of a parent with dementia are repetitive questions and repetitive behaviors that don’t seem to stop. You are not alone.

Why? Why? Why?

It’s common to experience repetitious behavior from people living with dementia. Due to neuropathological changes in their brain, repetitive questions from your parent are often due to their inability to recall information. They may not realize that they just asked you a question or they may not be able to remember the answer. Repetitive behaviors are often their way of acting out their anxiety or stress or are a release for the frustration of memory loss. It’s as though their dementia leaves them stuck in a loop they cannot get out of. This can be extremely stressful.

How Can You Help Break This Repetitive Cycle?

Contact their physician. Sometimes certain medications can be the cause of restlessness or repetitive behaviors. Ask their physician to review their medications to determine if there might be a drug interaction contributing to this behavior.

Calm environment. If there are too many stimuli, this can overwhelm a person with dementia. Too many distractions can cause them anxiety and confusion which can trigger repetitive questions. Sometimes this is out of your control, for example, while driving in a car with traffic, honking horns, colorful signs, pedestrians, and outside noises. But when possible, turn off the TV or radio and have the children play in another room to create a place of calm for your parent or make their room a sanctuary of quiet and calm to retreat to.

Enjoyable diversions. Sometimes repetitive behaviors result from boredom. Have a list of things they enjoy doing and try these when they are agitated. For example, take them for a walk around the neighborhood, play their favorite music on noise-cancelling headphones, sing their favorite hymn or song, or try a familiar task like sorting socks or dusting. Redirecting their attention to something enjoyable and productive can be very effective.

React to the emotions behind the behavior. When a parent has dementia they may find it impossible to convey their emotions. Instead of reacting to the behavior, try to uncover the emotion or cause behind it. Is their emotion a sign of pain, frustration, anxiety, depression, insecurity, anger, loneliness? What they might actually need is comforting or a hug. Try reassuring them by rubbing their back, holding their hand, and expressing words of comfort and love.

For more suggestion on how to manage repetitious behaviors or to find a support group in your area, contact that Alzheimer’s Association. If you feel that you loved one needs more care than you can manage, visit a memory care community, schedule an appointment at one of our Aegis Living communities.