A common behavior related to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is the repetition of words, tasks, or the undoing of things which have just been completed. This can often be a challenging behavior for caregivers.
These behaviors can be caused by many different things. In addition to memory loss, stress and anxiety can also lead to repetitive behaviors. A person might feel comforted by pacing or may be using certain gestures in an attempt to express themselves emotionally or fulfill a physical need. Additionally, they may not recognize when they have finished a task or may simply be unable to stop their repetitive action.
There are many different strategies to approach repetition, each dealing with different possible reasons for the behavior.
For example, if the person is pacing they may be stressed or need exercise, and a physical activity may help ease their tension. Repeated actions may also indicate depression or physical pain, so it is important to consult a physician to have the individual assessed for a possible illness or infection. The person also may simply need to be distracted with something to hold or an activity. Interestingly, activities that require repetition, such as folding laundry, may be beneficial for the person.
When a person is stuck repeating a part of a task it may help to show them the rest of it. Visual aids can be easier to understand and respond to than verbal instructions. Above all, make sure they do not feel rushed and avoid interrupting their repetitive motion as it may distress them.
Some objects or stimuli in an environment can lead to repetitive questions, or there could be too much noise or activity. This may cause the person to be uncomfortable.Strategies to deal with this discomfort include removing triggering objects or reducing the amount of noise or activity in the environment.
Most importantly, remember to use a calm voice and attempt to soothe the person. While these behaviors can understandably be very stressful for caregivers, agitation can often cause distress and lead to more difficulties.
For more information regarding repetition, contact the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter at 800.272.3900 or visit alz.org/Dayton.
“Understanding Difficult Behaviors” by Anne Robinson, Beth Spencer, and Laurie White