Word repetition is a very common symptom of memory loss. As a person’s forgetfulness increases, you may notice them telling the same story or asking the same question over and over again. Both reader questions today share a concerning challenge in this area.
My mother lives with me and has been diagnosed with early stage dementia. We both have activities and tasks that make for busy days, but frankly, by evening I am totally exhausted. After dinner we always sit in our favorite chairs to watch TV. My plan is to kick back and relax. However, for some time now, it seems her plan is to tell me the same story over and over again each and every night! It has become unbearably irritating. What can I do?
This is an example of what has become a typical conversation at my house nearly every night. My husband and I are comfortably snuggled up on the couch and I announce excitedly that we are going to watch his favorite movie, The Music Man. Over 50 years ago, he was in his high school’s marching band, so he loves both the songs and the story.
He then asks, “What’s on TV tonight?” I nicely reply, “The Music Man.” The sound of 76 trombones fill the air and he asks, “What show is on the TV?” This time, I respond with annoyance, “The movie is The Music Man!” He seriously seems clueless why the tone of my voice has changed and begins to pout. Ten minutes pass and he asks, “What’s on TV tonight?” Can you please help!
It is very clear and completely understandable that you both want to pull your hair out and scream, “You just told me that!” or, “You just asked me that!” However, for your loved ones it is quite the opposite: They cannot understand your annoyance and consequently are confused and left feeling stupid or hurt.
Your getting upset and annoyed will only get them upset and annoyed. The sad truth is that they think they are making the statement for the first time, and as caregivers, it is best for all concerned that we receive their comments as such.
Redirection is the act of changing the course of a conversation. This will immediately create a new thought pattern for the person with memory loss. It can be used successfully in many situations and is a much-needed tool for caregivers.
When someone repeatedly tells the same story; simply nod and say, “How interesting” or, “What a lovely story.” Then immediately redirect. Instead of answering the “What is the movie?” question again and again, immediately redirect by saying, “Look at those fancy uniforms!” or, “Look at all those instruments!”
Much of daily upset and annoyance will diminish by creating conversation detours about a family member, upcoming event or the weather.