Repetition

A person with dementia may do or say something over and over again - like repeating a word, question or activity. In most cases, he or she is probably looking for comfort, security and familiarity.

The person may also pace or undo what has just been finished. These actions are rarely harmful to the person with dementia but can be stressful for the caregiver.

How to respond

• Look for a reason behind the repetition. Try to find out if there is a specific cause for the behaviour.

• Focus on the emotion, not the behaviour. Rather than reacting to what the person is doing, think about how he or she is feeling.

• Turn the action or behaviour into an activity. If the person is rubbing his or her hand across the table, provide a cloth and ask for help with dusting.
Stay calm, and be patient. Reassure the person with a calm voice and gentle touch.

• Provide an answer. Give the person the answer that he or she is looking for, even if you have to repeat it several times.

• Engage the person in an activity. The individual may simply be bored and need something to do. Provide structure and engage the person in a pleasant activity.

• Use memory aids. If the person asks the same questions over and over again, offer reminders by using notes, clocks, calendars or photographs, if these items are still meaningful to the individual.

• Accept the behaviour. If it isn't harmful, let it be. Find ways to work with it.

Read our factsheet on Moving about, leaving home for more information

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Did you know?

Dementia is a progressive disease (meaning that it gets worse over time) that usually starts later in life and lasts for the rest of a person's life.