If you are a caregiver for a dementia patient or spend time visiting a loved one in memory care, you understand the frustration. An individual who suffers from memory loss can ask the same questions over and over, or repeat the same statements ad infinitum. Is there anything that can be done to help them to stop asking repetitive questions? Unfortunately for you, the answer is likely no. People living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia have lost their ability to store short term memories. They are not being careless or inattentive – they really don’t remember that they asked you the same thing 20 times.
Many people think that they can help their loved one by writing notes or reminders and leaving them in conspicuous places. In very early stages of dementia, this may be helpful. However, as memory loss progresses, the notes will probably cause you more frustration than relief. If a patient does not remember that they have a doctor’s appointment, they won’t know to look for a note reminding them about it. Caregivers will then find themselves explaining both the appointment and the note over and over! Tech companies are always looking for opportunities to create an app that will set alarms and remind memory care patients about taking medication, going to dinner, or tell them it is bedtime. However, the same problem exists with technology apps as with post-it-notes. Your loved one doesn’t know that the ringing alarm signifies that it is time to take their medication – or even that they need to take medication at all, depending on their illness progression.
Experts do have several recommendations regarding dealing with repetitive questions, but they are not for the memory care patient. These recommendations are for the people who love them.
- Take a step back and a deep breath. A dementia patient is not trying to aggravate or annoy you. They honestly don’t remember asking you the same things over and over. In their mind, it is the first time that they are asking the question. If you let it anger you, they will sense your frustration and be confused as to why a simple question inspired such a response.
- Keep your tone even and your body language non-threatening. You can upset your loved one if your voice reflects agitation or anger, or if your body language seems aggressive. Attempt to sound positive and affirming whether it is the first time you heard the question, or the tenth time.
- Take a break and leave the room. It is perfectly understandable if you need to take a breather and remove yourself from the situation. It is important to take care of yourself and make sure that you stay on an even keel.
- Don’t go it alone. It is impossible to be the sole caregiver for a dementia patient and not have it take a toll on you emotionally and physically. Whether you hire someone to help you, move your loved one into a memory care facility, or simply ask a family member to give you a scheduled break, be sure to ask for help.
Enter Their Reality
One important aspect of caring for someone with dementia is to remember that their understanding of what is happening is their reality. In other words, if they continually ask where their mother is, you will upset them if you point out that their parents are no longer alive. Sometimes it is ok to enter their reality, and play along a bit.
If you have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia, repetitive questions are a fact of life. If you need assistance with care or are looking for a Venice area memory care facility, call A Banyan Residence today.