Repetitive behaviour

People with dementia often carry out the same activity, make the same gesture, say the same thing, make the same noise or ask the same question over and over.

The person may be repeating themselves because they feel anxious and frightened, and want comfort, security and reassurance. They may be struggling to make sense of what’s going on around them because of memory problems, confusion, disorientation or boredom, so they may be trying to make sense of their situation by asking about and exploring it. Repetition may also be a result of memory loss, and the person not being able to remember what they have done or said, or the answer they received to a question.

Often if someone is repeating the same question, they need reassurance rather than information. For example, if they keep asking what day it is they may need reassuring they haven’t forgotten something rather than needing to know that it’s Monday.

Repetition can be exhausting and frustrating, especially if you haven’t been able to take a break. Try to remember that the person isn’t being difficult on purpose. It can also be frustrating for people with dementia, especially if their questions are unanswered and they are left feeling anxious and insecure.

Repetitive behaviour – tips for carers

  • If the person is repeating questions, try to be patient and sensitive towards them. They may not know that they have repeated themselves and may notice if you seem impatient, which might distress them.
  • Find out why the person is asking repetitive questions – are they in pain or lost, or do they need the toilet? Is there a common theme to their questions?
  • It may be helpful to encourage the person to find the answer for themselves. For example, if the person keeps asking the time, consider buying a clock that is easy to read, and keep it where they can see it.
  • Some carers find that it helps to write down basic facts (such as what day or date it is) on a notepad or whiteboard. You can then suggest the person looks at the note. However, consider whether this really meets the person’s needs.
Reminder products

The Alzheimer's Society shop has various tools that act as reminders. Take a look at the full listing. 

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