Behaviour changes

4. Repetitive behaviour

People with dementia often carry out the same activity, make the same gesture, say the same thing or ask the same question repeatedly. This may be because they feel anxious and frightened, and want comfort, security and reassurance. The person's natural interaction with their surroundings may have been disrupted by 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.

Repetition can be exhausting for carers, who may become irritated and frustrated that they can't have a break. Carers may think that the person is being deliberately difficult. 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 tactful and patient. They may not know that they have repeated themselves and may be sensitive to signs of impatience in others.
  • It is important to look for the underlying meaning of repetitive questions - is the person in pain, are they lost, 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 in a position that is visible.
  • ome carers find that it helps to write down basic facts (eg what day or date it is) on a notepad or whiteboard. They can then refer the person to the note. However, it's important to consider whether this really meets the person's needs.
  • If the person becomes anxious about upcoming events it may help not to give them too much notice of the event, or to give them plenty of notice - whichever works best.