How to Respond to Repetitive Questions in Dementia

A son laughs with his father as he uses tips to manage repetitive questions in dementia.

Repetitive questions in dementia can be frustrating for loved ones when they’re trying to have a conversation. These tips can help.

If you’ve ever played music on vinyl records, you know that the needle does not always track smoothly. Sometimes a tiny bit of debris or dust causes it to get stuck or skip, leaving you hearing just a few words of the song again and again until the problem is addressed.

In Alzheimer’s disease as well as other types of dementia, memory blips can result in a similar effect referred to as conversation looping. Commonly occurring in mild and moderate stages of the disease, repetitive questions in dementia may look like this:

  • You are having an enjoyable conversation about your favorite football team’s latest victory.
  • The individual with dementia suddenly switches gears and asks you if you have finished your homework.
  • Knowing it’s important to step into an alternative reality or time frame with the individual, you respond that all of your homework is finished.
  • You then return to the conversation about the incredible touchdown that clinched the win.
  • The other person asks again if you’ve completed your homework.

What is the Best Way to Manage Repetitive Questions in Dementia?

It is beneficial to start by understanding why the behavior is occurring. We all experience repetition to varying degrees. We might forget that we have told a person a specific memory or story and tell them again. We also may repeat a question we have in mind, uncertain whether we actually asked the question or simply just thought about it. These types of situations occur when we aren’t completely focused or paying close enough attention to the environment around us.

In contrast, conversation loops in Alzheimer’s can occur as frequently as every few minutes. Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University Ira E. Hyman, Jr., Ph.D., explains that with cognitive impairment, “…the work of binding the elements of an experience into a personal memory is disrupted.”

It is important to recognize that correcting someone with Alzheimer’s is not an effective tactic. With that in mind, it is best to continue to respond to the person’s repetitive story or question, keeping your reply brief. You can then try changing the topic to something you know is of specific interest to them now or was important to them in their younger years, as long-term memories remain intact much longer than more recent ones.

How a Specialized Alzheimer’s Caregiver Can Help

With many challenging symptoms and behaviors to manage, caring for a person with dementia by yourself can be overwhelming. Our caregivers are specially trained in effective approaches to managing the difficulties experienced in Alzheimer’s. Let us partner with you to ensure the highest quality care for a person you love.

Whether you’re struggling with sundowning, wandering, aggression, hallucinations, or other complications a loved one is experiencing from dementia, CareWorks Health Services is here to help. Reach out to us online or call us any time at (949) 859-4700 for more information on our expert dementia care, available throughout Seal Beach, Laguna Woods, Mission Viejo, and the surrounding areas.