What to Do When a Senior Repeats the Same Things Over and Over

CareManager_georg-arthur-pflueger-eO_JhqabBY0-unsplash_smallPhoto credit Georg Arthur Pflueger

One sign of the aging brain is repeating things more often, especially stories and questions. There are reasons for this that are not related to progressive conditions like dementia, but in either case, repetition can get old very quickly. Even the most experienced and patient family caregivers occasionally struggle to hide their frustration. While there is no easy fix for this trying side effect of aging, a change in attitude and some proven strategies can help you keep your cool and preserve your loved one’s dignity. 

On Aging and Being Repetitive" As we age, our perspective on life changes. There’s a human need to make sense of what has happened in one’s past and to contemplate what one’s legacy will be. Added years give us a chance to reflect on our past from a distance and provide a unique point of view that only elders can fully understand and appreciate. Recounting old stories is one way that many seniors work through this process. Sharing experiences with those we love helps us derive meaning from our successes, failures, joys, and hardships. This is also the way countless generations have secured their legacy—by passing down lessons learned and words of wisdom.

If an aging loved one retells the same stories every now and then, and you think to yourself, “I’ve heard that a hundred times!” please have the patience to let them continue. They may be working through the past to find a sense of meaning. Whether it’s consciously or unconsciously, elders often want to figure out how these events shaped their present and will play into their future. When family members and friends understand the importance of an elder retelling personal stories, they tend to be more tolerant of the repetition. Furthermore, it’s important to realize that just because an elder repeats some things doesn’t necessarily mean they have dementia. Their minds may not be as sharp or fast as they used to be, but some rumination and forgetfulness isn’t unusual in elders. 

Coping with Repetition Caused by Dementia: According to the Alzheimer's Association repetition is common in individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia, oftentimes in association with a person's desire to seek comfort or security. My heart goes out to the many family caregivers

Continue reading on Agingcare for some ideas about how to cope with repetitive questions:

Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.“I hold onto your book as a life preserver and am reading it slowly on purpose...I don't want it to end.” ...Craig William Dayton, Film Composer

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What to Do When a Senior Repeats the Same Things Over and Over