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Understanding repetitive questioning from a person with Dementia

October 21, 2015

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 repeated 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 can not 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’s 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.



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