Caregivers, Health

Understanding Repetitive Speech and Dementia

A person with a form of dementia asks you, “how did I get here?” The explanation is given. Less than 2 minutes later her or she asks , “do you know how I got here?” The explanation is given again. And there’s a good chance that question is asked again in just a few moments if the person isn’t distracted or redirected.

Photo courtesy of Angela Hammond.

Repetitive speech is common in individuals with forms of dementia and is caused by the deterioration of brain cells from the disease. Understanding that this behavior is a result of the disease’s impact on the individual can help the caregiver(s) have empathy and patience, as it can be exhausting to answer the same question or hear the same stories over and over.

Repetitive speech plays a role for the individual with dementia, it can be a cue to others that they’re feeling anxious, insecure, or uncomfortable. Individuals with dementia are not always good reporters of what they’re feeling emotionally or physically. Their brain isn’t cooperating to provide correct information and responses to the stimuli around them. It’s important to help anticipate their needs in efforts of keeping them comfortable and safe.

When facing repetitive speech, provide an answer to the question being asked.  Look for the reason for the behavior. It is helpful to find a way to distract them, provide a stimulating activity? Keeping the hands and mind busy can help reduce the behavior.

As a community, we can help by being aware of the hurdles dementia creates.  It helps to understand that filling the day with activity is difficult and tiring and makes it seem impossible for the caregiver to accomplish tasks. Finding ways to provide support and respite for the caregiver can give them what they need to keep providing the best care for their loved one.

Angela Hammond is owner and Director of The Day Place, located in Gardendale, and a contributor to Gardendale Health.