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Understanding why a person may display distress behaviours. Understanding repetitive questioning.

This is often mistakenly seen as a deliberate behaviour. Staff may ignore the person or blame them, e.g. How many times must I tell you?

Short term memory loss. Simple forgetting can lead to repe

ated requests for information. Within moments of asking, information is lost and questions are asked again.

Perseveration. Frontal lobe damage may result in words and actions being repeated continuously, the person gets ‘stuck in a groove’ and cannot shift from what is being said or done.

Boredom. If devoid of stimulation and occupation the person may repeat themselves to alleviate the boredom.

Human contact. The person may repeat things as a means of holding onto the presence of another. The question is unimportant – human contact is.

Hard of hearing. The person may simply not hear what was said. Don’t assume the person is more forgetful than they really are.

A forlorn attempt to communicate need. The question may be repeated not because the response is forgotten but because the need still remains unmet.


“Where are my children?” Need to be loved and needed.

“Where is my wife?” Need to be secure or need for intimacy.

“Where is my mother?” Need to be comforted and reassured.

“When can I go home?” Desire to be safe or physical need, e.g. needs the toilet.

“When is dinner?” Hunger or security of eating with others.

Responding to repetitive questions

• Repeat answers to questions as many times as required. Try not to become impatient. Engage the person in conversation.

• Provide adequate reassurance and comfort, e.g. sit with the person, hold their hand and ensure good eye contact.

• Try writing answers to questions on a reminder pad to help the person remember.

• If perseverating, use positive distraction to help move the person out of the groove, e.g. music, pictures.

• Provide stimulation, eliminate boredom by engaging in meaningful activity e.g. reminiscence/music therapy.

• Ensure hearing aids are fitted/refer for assessment.

• Ensure physical needs are met, explore need to use the toilet, pain experience, hunger and thirst etc.