4 tips for How to respond to repeat questions from people with memory loss

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By Krystal Wiebusch, LSW

People with Alzheimer’s or other memory loss impairments may repeat things…a lot.  It’s annoying to hear the same question over and over again.

Your loved one isn’t doing it on purpose to bug you.  They truly have no memory of asking the question.  You might be able to answer kindly the first few times, but after hearing the same thing a dozen times, it’s natural to get a little angry.  Here are some tips to prevent you from getting too frustrated.

In most cases, the behavior of repetitive questions is because they’re feeling stressed, fearful, or anxious and need reassurance.  Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Respond to the emotions, not the words
    when your loved one with memory loss starts to repeat a question over and over, try to guess what feelings might be causing the behavior. If they might be feeling anxious, giving a brief hug or hand squeeze while calmly answering the question may soothe them enough to stop their need to keep asking.
  2. Keep your answers brief
    The shorter and simpler your answer, the better. It saves you time and energy and reduces your exasperation when you have to repeat it five more times.
  3. Distraction
    Distract them with something they enjoy, maybe offer a snack or beverage. Change the subject. Reminisce about the old days.
  4. Escape for a few minutes
    Sometimes you just need to leave the room for a few minutes. Go to the bathroom, get a quick breath of fresh air, or check your email.