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The repetition, the repetition, the repetition
Posted: Friday, August 23, 2019 2:12 PM
Joined: 5/30/2019
Posts: 3

My husband is in the mid stage of Alzheimer’s. His short term memory is gone. Nothing registers for more than a nanosecond. Related to this is his incessant repetition. He will ask the same question or make the same comment dozens of times within a short period of time. I have done my reading and I know what I’m supposed to do, and I am able to reply appropriately most of the time. However, on one of his bad days, my husband will repeat himself five times within 5-8 minutes and it drives me nuts. He won’t let go of me. 

My daughter wants to give me a break by coming up for a few days but if I go somewhere, my husband wants to go with me. I know I am his lifeline but I’m stressed a good deal of the time. He is n meds for his condition and sees his neurologist 2-3 times a year but there’s not much for him to do to help me.

 I had walking pneumonia this summer, too distracted from taking care of myself. I know this is common among caregivers but I don’t know where to turn. Our support groups are at night and I can’t leave him. My doctor put me on Zoloft and it does take the edge off but in all my 70+ years, I never had to resort to meds to get through my day.

D in law
Posted: Friday, August 23, 2019 3:24 PM
Joined: 4/24/2017
Posts: 586

Paris-welcome sorry you are worn out it sounds like.   You need to realize you can't do this all on your own.  Let your daughter come in and help.  Can you hire a caregiver to come over a few hours a few days a week?  Someone he might like?  I know that's hard, to find the right person but it can be done.  HE WILL BE OK IF YOU TAKE A BREAK and go out with a friend and have a normal conversation and a cup of coffee.  Go get your hair done.  Something Trust me.  

My father cared for his dear wife (my Mom) Dad didn't let on to us kids how bad Mom really was.  She also had zero short term memory.  Dad dropped dead one morning right in front of her of a heart attack.  Please don't let that happen to you, and please do share your troubles with your daughter.  Let her help.   

Bless you, and best wishes.

Edited to add my Dad was 78yo.


KC in AZ
Posted: Friday, August 23, 2019 5:46 PM
Joined: 8/23/2019
Posts: 2

For my mother's repetitive questions, I bought a calendar for her that has 2 pages per week, with sections for each day.  I made an "Everyday Schedule" sheet and taped it to the front of the book.  It lists times for breakfast, lunch, dinner, getting ready for bed, going to bed, times for taking meds, etc.  I tell her to look at what time it is, and then see what is coming next on the schedule.  I made a separate list and taped it to the next page, and listed her favorite TV shows, times and channels.  When she asks certain questions about what's going on, I tell her to turn to today's page in the calendar.  Eg, she asks when I'll come over or call her; I tell her to write "2 p.m., Karen will visit"  or "10 a.m., Karen will call", etc, etc.  When she starts asking things repeatedly, I tell her to look in the book.  Sometimes this all works, sometimes not!!

Posted: Saturday, August 24, 2019 8:27 AM
Joined: 8/22/2019
Posts: 34


There are options out there. My father took care of my Mom and did not lead on how bad her dementia was until he passed away and we realized how bad she was. We started with a caregiver coming in the home 4 hours a day and then had to move her to care facility where she had 24 hour care and hospice. In this wonderful care home, I have gotten to meet other family members and this is what some people are doing. One couple, like you the wife could no longer care for Arthur herself, so she put Arthur in the care home but she went to visit and often had meals with him. That worked for them. The other couple I recently met the husband can no longer care for his wife full time who has dementia. He can't leave her, so he has no life. They have been married for 64 years and he takes her to the care home just during the day and brings her home at night, so he can keep his sanity and have a life. He said he was not ready to have her stay full time. I hope you can get some help because it is too much to do it all by yourself.

I wish you the best.


Gig Harbor
Posted: Saturday, August 24, 2019 11:19 AM
Joined: 3/10/2016
Posts: 632

My husband sounds a lot like yours. He is 79 with no memory at all. He does not drive but is able to go for walks in the neighborhood. He fixes a simple breakfast and lunch (the same for over 40 years) but depends on me for running all aspects of the house. He is starting to argue with me about things but a simple “ please don’t argue with me or tell me I am lying” usually stops that. I have explained to him that he has memory loss like his mother and sister and he seems to understand. It is just so incredibly lonely as any conversation is immediately forgotten. Travel is out because he would be absolutely lost if I got sick on a trip. We did take two trips this summer and he has no recollection of either. Even though he enjoyed it in the moment it was very stressful for me and I won’t do it again. He has had a great retirement but my retirement will be caring for him. Am I bitter - yes I am but it is life.
Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2019 2:31 AM
Joined: 8/25/2019
Posts: 11

My 86 year old MIL with Alzheimer's recently moved in with us, and yes, the repetition is what is getting to both my husband and me.

I've created a "reference sheet" (with large print since Mom also has macular degeneration) that I have posted in various places throughout the house, like the bathroom mirror, and on the tables next to where she sits. This is somewhat helpful as she fidgets with anything in front of her, so she picks it up and reads it. 

It tells her how long she's lived here, who we are, that her meds and clothes are here, where "here" is etc. Anytime she has a new persistent worry, I add another paragraph that addresses it. (We may be up to a book soon!)

She refers to it dozens of times a day, and yet, as soon as she puts the paper down, she is asking the same questions again. We are both trying so hard to be patient at all times, but it is incredibly frustrating. It's been very helpful to be able to say, "Check your reference sheet, Mom" instead of repeating the same answers ad infinitum.

We felt a little blindsided because my sister-in-law was going to FL to "help" Mom every month for 4 or 5 days, yet in no way communicated that Mom's short term memory was nonexistent, and most days she doesn't remember either of her husbands, nor can she picture her (mid-60s) children if she hasn't seen them in the last 15 minutes.

I would definitely recommend finding someone who can give you a break when you just need an hour alone.  I recently commented to someone that it is like having a toddler again -- someone you love who you are afraid to leave alone unsupervised, but they are able to reach everything and defeat safety devices.

My husband and I (we both work from home) are spelling each other currently, but we can already see that we will need to involve respite care if we ever want to do something radical like go out to dinner or to a concert alone again.

Best of luck! 

Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2019 5:52 AM
Joined: 3/6/2017
Posts: 2167

I'm glad the Zoloft is providing some help for you. 

In addition to the repetition, is there shadowing going on as well? You mention that he "won't let go of me" and that he'll want to go with you should you try to take some respite. My mom found dad's brand of "shadowing" (he was too lazy to physically shadow her, so he'd call to her to tell her repetitive stories/questions) made her feel trapped and a little claustrophobic. 

Short term memory and other aspects of this disease impact a PWD's ability to engage and communicate. I found my once very bright story-teller of a dad lost many of his pragmatic skills around language and communication. While he still had an impressive vocabulary, he struggled with making the connection he so wanted. In a lot of ways, he reminded me of my now adult son who has a higher functioning form of autism- they wanted to connect badly but couldn't follow the give-and-take volley of conversation so they relied on repetitive story-telling (scripted monologues) and asking questions. Recognizing this behavior as anxiety driven and attention-seeking made it easier to live with. Sometimes proactively paying attention ahead of a task would buy some time to complete it. But I hear you, it is at once painful and crazy-making to live with this behavior.

I would urge you to let your daughter help you take a break. If his short term memory is as shot as you say, he won't really be able to process how long you've been gone anyway. And it would be nice for him them to have some time together. I would excuse your self with a vague excuse about seeing a girlfriend and just go. With no short term memory, it's pointless to prepare him for you being gone a few days. If he does realize it's been a while, you apologize and feign car trouble.
Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2019 5:57 AM
Joined: 3/6/2017
Posts: 2167

I wanted to add- I had a friend suggest I turn answering the same-damned-question as 4 minutes ago into a game she played with herself by finding as many novel ways to answer as she could. Sometimes she'd rephrase the answer,  do it in character as someone else- Mr. Rogers, Dirty Harry, a Muppet or even sing it. Her mom found it funny. Other people have removed the emotion from it- they just repeat the information word-for-word.
Greg G
Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2019 6:53 PM
Joined: 2/8/2017
Posts: 987

Hey Paris20,

Welcome to our wonderfully wacky world we call dementia.  I am so sorry you have to join us.

As others have mentioned, DO have your daughter come and stay with her dad for a time while you get some seriously needed respite.  For all the reasons others have stated.

As for the constant repetition, you really only have 2 options.  Well, 2 that will be good for the situation.  As harshedbuzz says, make a game out of it.  Someone else here used to do that and eventually it worked out in a positive way.  Remember, this constant repeating is probably a phase that will change in the future. 

The other option is just keep answering as if it was the first time you heard the question.  Harder to do than the game technique.  Your husband's brain is breaking and somewhat already broken.  He will not "learn" to stop asking the questions.  So YOU will have to LEARN a new way of dealing with his questions.

One of the reasons they ask the questions over and over and over in relatively short periods of time is that they are not engaged in something else to distract them from thinking of these things/subjects.  So having you husband somewhat occupied with a task or something will cut down somewhat on the repetitive questions.

Good luck and best wishes, Greg

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2019 11:01 AM
Joined: 4/8/2019
Posts: 16

Paris20 I'm so sorry. I hope you can get some respite soon.

You have had many helpful replies here I just wanted to add that we are in this stage with my MIL (80 years old) at the moment. Personally I don't mind answering the same questions many times but I only spend a few hours with her a month so I know that is nothing like being 24/7 bombarded with the same questions and I know it drives my FIL mad. 

She was also (maybe still is, we need to check when we next see her and FIL) very clingy to FIL, shadowing him so he cannot have 2 minutes to himself. The only 'comfort' (and it's a twisted kind of comfort!) we can take is that this too shall pass as MIL progresses with this horrible disease. From what I have read here on this wonderful forum and elsewhere online this stage of constant repetition, questioning will pass as communication skills decline.