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How do you cope with constant questions?

DazeInOurLives

Registered User
Dec 10, 2009
107
East Midlands,UK
twitter.com
Reducing the constant questions...a little

Hi,

Mum asks the same question over and over too, It is not always the same question every day. The questions are about whatever she is worrying about at that time. Why this, when that and the other...relentless and draining.

Naturally, giving the same, logical response each time doesn't have any lasting effect...

However, we have recently started experimenting with slightly different responses. Some responses don't make any difference at all to the frequency of the questions. However, finding the 'right' answer seems to settle her mind and her anxiety levels.

Even "what day is it today?" can be loaded with significance - Mum knows on some level that some days have good things that happen (eg the gardener comes on a Saturday who she loves to chat with) or it could be a day that she sometimes goes to meet old friends or goes out for lunch. Or even a regular day that held significance years ago can still bring anxieties and expectation. The day she used to put the bins out for example. To work out what is in her mind when she asks these questions is key. Of course she could never tell me why she asked that question, but there are often clues.

This method has even been so successful at times that the original question is forgotten. When we don't get the 'right' answer, her questions and worries continue as before. But the 'Goldilocks answer' that is 'just right' and acceptable to her can have a really magical effect. It's such a great feeling, knowing that Mum's anxiety has eased a little for a while.

This may not work for everyone - I get that, but I thought it was worth sharing because it works often for Mum and there are times that I have cried with relief when it works.
 
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lanobbre

Registered User
Jan 31, 2012
13
Staffordshire
Mostly, now I seem to be coping all right with Dad's behaviour, but the one thing I'm not doing well with is his constant questions.
I know he's after reassurance, but when he's asked me the same thing ten times in the space of an hour I feel like I'm going to explode.
He has been showing signs of sundowning. Largely I've managed to keep this under control by sticking to a strict routine and telling him he's mustn't get out of bed until he hears me get up. It's difficult for me as I have insomnia and become unwell if I don't myself regulate my sleeping pattern. He has a couple of times got up at night, but has gone back to bed when I tell him to.
Anyway, it's made more complicated by the fact he doesn't really understand time any more. Some days he doesn't want to go to bed at all. Other times he's demanding to go to bed from the minute I get home from work. I say "No, not yet, your bed time is at such a time, after which I usually have to explain what time it is now, how long he has to wait, what the arms on the clock mean. He says okay. Five minutes later he starts again. We go through the routine again. Everything settles down. Five minutes later...
He can become very difficult, taking my refusal to let him go as some kind of plot or insult. In his mind it's the middle of the night and I'm making him do something unnatural and I find it very hard to keep civil with him.
This is one of the hardest things to deal with, but there are constant questions from him all the time, about what I'm doing, about what he should do, about household tasks, about if I'm going to feed him, and at times my patience just goes out of the window. It's worst of all when I try to go to another part of the house for a breather and he follows me. I just want to lose it altogether.
Does anyone have any tactics for this sort of behaviour? I can only answer the same question so many times, he just doesn't have a clue what he's doing.
Hi...

Re: following you. He's doing this because he's anxious about being on his own and fearful that you won't come back. Even if you are only out of the room for a minute or two, give him an explanation of where you're going. Use words that are familiar with him so "I'm just going to the loo" and tell him that you'll be coming back. That way, he knows that you are going but will only away for a short time. Although it's tedious, you must do this EVERY time you leave the room - he will need constant reassurance.

As for the sundowning - think about what he actually does in a day. He needs to be engaged in activity throughout the day - inactivity and boredom are common causes of sundowning. I'm not saying he should be doing the housework or attempting to cook the dinner but he needs to be involved in doing something that's meaningful to him. Think about his past interests, what he did for a living etc and try to match an activity to that. For example, I had a patient that used to work in an office sorting papers. She would follow her daughter around because she had a need to be 'doing' something (people with dementia also experience boredom, that doesn't disappear with cognitive impairment). Her daughter found that she couldn't get on with the task of sorting her paperwork out. I advised that she give her mother a couple of boxes and some old pieces of paperwork or newspapers etc that weren't important and to give them to her mother to 'sort out'. All she did was put the pieces of paper into one box and then out of that box into another. It gave her a purpose, made her feel useful and she was completely engaged in the activity. It was meaningful to her because it was something familiar, something she'd always done - her past role was important to her. The sundowning improved. I'd advise you to leave 'props' around the house that will remind him of his past, things he can pick up and look at. For example, if someone was a pub owner, leave some beer mats or towels around. If someone was a seamstress, some samples of fabric. People with dementia still need to have a sense of self, to know who they are. These props can provide them with that reminder and reinforce their self identity. It may also give that additional reassurance.

You are right in thinking that the repetition is for reassurance and yes, it can be very frustrating at times but I do believe that activity is the key.

I know it's difficult but try not to tell him he shouldn't get up until you do. He won't have the cognitive ability to fully understand this and certainly won't be able to retain the information. He may remember some of it but not all of it so may not understand it and this will just result in him become anxious. For example, he may remember he has to stay in bed but may not remember WHY. There are clocks that you can buy that show night and day - they were designed specifically for people with dementia (google analogue clocks for people with dementia). They show pictures of day and night as the time changes. This way, it doesn't really matter if he doesn't understand time anymore. You could also try black out blinds for his room to block out sunlight which may make him think it's later than it actually is.

Good luck
 
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limafoxtrot

Registered User
Aug 7, 2011
288
Uk Expat
Hello JMU, I'm a long distance carer for my Mum but talk to her everyday on the phone. I don't get the constant questions that much but she does keep telling me the same things over & over again.

However, when I go home, there are certain situations where I know Mum will ask me the same question over & over again. A couple of examples are: if I take her out in the car, she will keep saying "there are more cars on the roads than there used to be aren't there". If we go down a road that is tree lined, she will say, "they don't cut trees down like they used to do they" and I often get the tree question when we are in the house and the wind is blowing as there is a lot of large trees where she lives. No matter how I answer, Mum will keep saying the same thing. What I try to do now is, say when we're driving, just keep talking to her about anything & everything to take her mind of the cars & trees, although this doesn't work when we're at home :)

Best wishes x
 

Dizzy Rascal

Registered User
Aug 17, 2012
7
south
constant questions

Dear JMU,
My bro feels like exploding too when Mum repeats the questions. I don't have as much contact with her as he does so am able to respond to her as if it's a fresh question every time, thank goodness and okay lucky me.

Does it help for you to explain what's happening as you go along - e.g. now we need to remove this clothing - as you seize the initiative and are reassuring at the same time and are making a connection in an incredibly difficult situation? Here's hoping.
 

eiloncaspi

Registered User
May 28, 2012
1
It is usually not possible to change the behavior of an older person's with Alzheimer's directly (in this case repetitive questions) -- only indirectly by changing our approach to the person. While we need to try as much as we possibly can to answer the questions patiently and empathetically again and again and again as if they were asked for the first time (which is how they are being perceived by the person), the way to cope with this extreme challenge, in my opinion, actually lies elsewhere...

Many older adults with Alzheimer's disease need a clear and repetitive daily structure and routine that are consistent and predictable across days. Specifically, the key is to engage the person in meaningful, appropriate, and enriching activities throughout the day and evening - whether at home, in a day care center, or in a care home. Over time, when a person is engaged in enriching activities that she/he enjoyed to do, it is possible that you will see the level of repetitive questions reduced. I recall a resident with memory loss who asked constant questions -- dozens per hour -- throughout the day and evening -- it was extremely challenging for the staff and for her fellow residents. But during pet therapy activity -- when a trained kitten was placed in her arms -- the number of questions she asked was very minimal -- it was clearly the effect of the joy she experienced by holding the kitten, stroking it, and talking to it in a loving caring way. Every person likes to do different things. The key is to learn (thoroughly) the life-history of the person (early life preferred -- due to long-term memory, which is preserved into the later stages of Alzheimer's) and to identify the things the person loves to do -- from therapeutic gardening, music therapy, singing, listening to music, physical activity, massage therapy, aromatherapy, art therapy, etc.
It doesn't have to be only established therapies (as the ones noted above). Even mundane tasks/chores at home can be fulfilling for the person (folding laundry, swiping the floor from dust, preparing something for the sick kids in a local hospital) -- anything that will make the person feel useful! It doesn't matter if they do it well as long as they feel engaged and that they are helpful.

The root cause of many behaviors in persons with Alzheimer's disease can be summarized in one word: Boredom. We all like to feel that we are doing something meaningful -- it doesn't matter if we have memory-loss or not.

Also, try to see if you can identify the underlying emotion and reason behind the literal words contained in the question. Many older adults led very active/productive life and they want to continue and feel useful and a contributing member of their family/community. So sometimes asking "What is the time?" every few minutes, may be a message from the person that she/he wants to do something meaningful with her/his time -- like they did throughout their lives...

You see, persons with Alzheimer's have difficulty initiating involvement in activities. We need to take the initiative, plan personally meaningful activities, and engage them in a meaningful way as much as possible -- not forgetting the individual preferences and the need of every person to be rest and have some quite down time in reasonable intervals...

Another way to deal with it that sometimes works is to write things down on a piece of paper. For example, a resident who asked every few minutes "When is lunch?" which annoyed her fellow residents who were trying to concentrate during a group activity -- one of the staff members wrote down in BIG LETTERS: "Lunch will be served at 12:30pm." Every time she asked the question, the piece of paper was shown to her or was given to her to hold and the staff person would point to the piece of paper -- this seemed to work at times.

Hope this helps.
 

jeany123

Registered User
Mar 24, 2012
19,036
70
Durham
eiloncaspi living with someone with vascular dementia 24/7 I think most people would have tried most things that you have said and when I am in bed for 6 hours with my husband (who is 65), before he will go to sleep and he is worried about something and continually asks the same questions repeatedly and I have tried everything that I can think of is much different from working with elderly people with Alzheimers showing notes and engaging him in activities would not work , the things you suggest are fine in a nursing home setting with different staff all the time but at home they are not very practical,


Jeany
 

Witzend

Registered User
Aug 29, 2007
4,291
SW London
the things you suggest are fine in a nursing home setting with different staff all the time but at home they are not very practical,


Jeany
Ditto x 10, Jeany - a CH setting is so very different from one to one care at home, where so often all the time involved, all the patience needed, and all the stress fall on just one person, who usually has everything else (cooking, cleaning, shopping, washing) to do as well.
 

optocarol

Registered User
Nov 23, 2011
315
Auckland, New Zealand
Ditto too, Witzend! Mostof the time I cope, but sometimes (like tonight) it all gets too much. It's the going round and round, getting nowhere, resolving nothing, that gets me.
 

Bedelia

Registered User
Dec 15, 2011
158
Ditto, Jeany123.

And lanobbre, I appreciate what you're saying re trailing and anxiety, but I'm afraid that in many cases (my mum's included) it would never help to explain where I was going - to the loo, putting kettle on, taking washing to dryer - because as soon as I was out of sight, even for a second, that explanation and reassurance would be forgotten and she would come looking for me, or shouting for me again.

However much we may rationalise and try to remind ourselves that they can't help it - it's the illness, all they want is reassurance, we can only change our own response, not their behaviour etc - there's no denying it is extremely exhausting and maddening and wears you down. I think the constant (social and moral) pressure for us to rationalise and not admit that we have a right to feel upset makes it even worse.

One of the worst questions is "how do you know that?", in response to virtually anything I might say. I do understand that it's a genuine question: because mum can't remember anything herself, she is genuinely amazed that anyone else can "know" things simply because they've learnt them before and remembered them. But it is very, very hard to parry repeatedly. I find myself falling back on "because it is", as you might say - in exasperation - to a small child who cannot reason. It is never satisfactory tho.

The other biggie is, when I'm leaving: "Can I come with you?", followed by, "Why not?" I know the advice is to distract or tell a white lie, but things such as "Because it's too wet today"/"... a very long journey"/"... supper time now" etc never work, as she always comes back at me with a response to which I have no answer: "That's nothing! I don't mind. I'm up for anything. You just don't want me!"...

At times like these, I am screaming out inside to give her the real answer: "Because you have dementia, you're not safe to be on your own for even a second, and I can't cope with it on my own 24/7 any more". But of course that's the one thing I must never say, and the only solution in the end, I'm afraid, is just to walk away (for however long can be managed to get over that moment).
 

Katrine

Registered User
Jan 20, 2011
2,839
England
SBA, I love your Goldilocks metaphor!

I found eiloncaspi's post very interesting. It may be platinum standard support, and more likely to be achieved in a staffed environment, but there are still good ideas that anyone can apply, even if only occasionally.

The underlying anxiety/personal agenda behind repeated questioning is something I recognise with MIL, along with the inability to plan and carry out tasks and hobby activities without someone there to do it with her. She spends a lot of her time 'churning' i.e. moving things around, what we call making a mess and losing things and what she calls sorting out the clutter and 'doing my papers' or 'doing my money'. There is certainly a strong need to be purposive, productive and responsible.

Finally, trained kittens????! :D I've heard of herding cats, but seriously, how do you train a kitten to be petted? Surely they either like or they don't, and you pick the friendly ones for the purpose. Some people do think cats can be trained, and judging from the picture this may well be true: http://nicepet.com/article/cat-and-kitten-training/ Impressive, herding Siamese must surely count as advanced level cat training. Or am I making this too complicated? Perhaps they are just house-trained not to wee on the resident's lap? ;)
 

stefania

Registered User
Dec 13, 2011
24
My mum is the one who has to put up with the constant questions, she is 88 and my dad is 94, so for her its as much the fact it is tiring but also the person who has shared her conversation for 63 years is now asking the wrong questions for her. My mum is also I think in the first stages of dementia as she is forgetting conversations. Having been through those stages with my dad I can now see the same stages emerging with my mum. How will cope if they both keep going I don't know, but we will.
I work with children and find that more and more I respond to them like the childrn in Pre-school. I look on it that they are going backwards in their ages, and then I don't feel so bad, don't know why but it works for me. My mum is at 10/12 years old and dad is about 2. It helps to see the funny side of life that we sort of return to where we started:).
 

Tensing

Registered User
Jun 9, 2011
14
Oxfordshire
Constant Questions

Reading through all these messages I realise how very lucky I am SO FAR. My heart goes out to all the people at the end of their tether. My John is 77 and has always been unselfish and still is, 4 years after his diagnosis. Of course he asks constant questions and has no idea where in the country he is or what day, month, year we are in and of course I get impatient, but have put up this printed notice over my kitchen sink.

"It is common for caregivers to blame or be upset with the person with dementia for not doing what they want or ask. Yet, the truth is that you can't force someone with Alzheimer's disease to remember or learn, nor can you expect logic will change their behaviour." Reminding myself that he is ill is the best way I can cope.
 

ollyfran

Registered User
Oct 9, 2010
21
West Midlands
Coping..... or not.

I have read through this post hoping for the "magic wand" advice to cope with this problem. I am not designated as Mum's carer, that is down to Dad with what I hope is as much support as I can offer. His place in heaven is definitely assured. I sometimes sit listening to my Mum saying that she "might as well not be here. Nobody tells me anything" after the umpteenth time of being told about whatever the current topic of conversation is and feel ready to top myself, never mind her! Then I take a deep breath, leave the room if I am really desperate and carry on. It really came home to me how futile losing my temper was when I did just that, telling Mum to "Just stop it! Dad tells you everything many times a day!" to which Mum stormed out of the room, slammed the bedroom door and sat on the bed. After 10 minutes of calm down time I went to say cheerio and apologise. She had no idea why she was sitting all alone in the bedroom and if I had actually apologised she wouldn't have known what I was talking about and I didn't want to bring it up by explaining so I let sleeping dogs lie, gave her a kiss and a cuddle and she happily waved me off. Enough said! Mum has a 3 minute memory span on a good day and I have to live with that and remember that this is not how she was or how she would want to be. This is a very cruel condition and I feel for anyone dealing with it in whatever capacity. Having said all that the repetition is still extremely wearing. When someone finds the answer please remember I am first in line!
 

dood

Registered User
Oct 26, 2009
45
UK
www.deebs.me.uk
Easy!

If the question is important enough to ask more than once then it is important enough to answer more than once.

Once one can recognise emotional reaction then the rest is easy no?
 

21citrouilles

Registered User
Aug 11, 2012
561
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
coping with constant questions

I noticed that when my mom repeatead the same question over and over, it had to do that she was preoccupied with some issue and was afraid of forgetting it. When the issue was resolved, she stopped, until another issue came up! I used to write notes with the question and the answer.

Some days, I got really drained, and would ask her for a time out, no talking for a while, explaining that I was tired. Sometimes I had to insist a couple of times, but eventually she understood and was quiet for a while.
 

garnuft

Registered User
Sep 7, 2012
6,585
Patience IS a virtue

These are the things that make caring for someone so wearisome, so isolating, so infuriating. I am grateful that I have had 25yrs of preparation with my son who has severe learning difficulties. The only way is to detach yourself emotionally and not get angry. It IS the only way, there will be times that you can't and you'll snap back. You will regret it and the guilt you feel will teach you but it takes a LONG time. I have patience with my Mam in a way my siblings don't but I've had 25 yrs to learn the lesson. Be kind to yourself, cut guilt out of the picture. Take a deep breath....and answer the questions. Get used to them waiting outside of the toilet. It's the only way. I nearly drove myself and my son into Loch Lomond 10 yrs ago on holiday. That's when I knew something had to change and it wasn't going to be him.:) The patience you give is better than a memory of guilt. It's sh*t, it's not fair but it's life as we know it Jim ;)
 

FifiMo

Registered User
Feb 10, 2010
4,710
Wiltshire
The really sad thing about this thread is to see how frustrating all the repeat questions are to deal with day in and day out and yet there are many also who would readily return to the days of repeat questions when their loved one no longer has the ability to ask the questions. It is a horrible disease that tests everyone to their limits.

Fiona
 

Witzend

Registered User
Aug 29, 2007
4,291
SW London
mum has one question she asks constantly whilst I'm with her 'How's the family' :) I must admit after giving her the run down at the first time of asking I do tend to zone out and just keep repeating, 'theyr'e fine'.

I think it's the only topic of conversation she can think of, bless her. No matter what I start talking about, she always come back to the same question.
Unlike my fil, who would ask the same q. all day long, my mother only really asked the same q. when anyone was in the kitchen, cooking. 'Anything I can do?' It would come every half minute and I was used to it so it didn't bother me at all.

However when my sister was there one day with my bil, she was the one in the kitchen 'fielding' the qs. and my bil got really irritated and snapped, 'Stop hassling her!' And my mother was of course very upset. I was really surprised since my mother had had AD for ages by then and I'd thought my bil had understood that she couldn't help it. I had to explain quicksmart on the quiet and since he's very nice (simply didn't understand) he felt v bad. They lived a very long drive away and hence didn't visit very often. But it just shows how people who aren't in contact with it a lot just don't 'get' it even though you think they must have got the message by now.
 
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jeany123

Registered User
Mar 24, 2012
19,036
70
Durham
The really sad thing about this thread is to see how frustrating all the repeat questions are to deal with day in and day out and yet there are many also who would readily return to the days of repeat questions when their loved one no longer has the ability to ask the questions. It is a horrible disease that tests everyone to their limits.

Fiona
Oh Fiona you are right I will probably look back on this thread and feel very, very guilty about complaining but it is the NOW situation that we think about and try not to think too much into the future,


Jeany x
 

Witzend

Registered User
Aug 29, 2007
4,291
SW London
Oh Fiona you are right I will probably look back on this thread and feel very, very guilty about complaining but it is the NOW situation that we think about and try not to think too much into the future,


Jeany x
Well, I certainly hope you won't feel guilty, Jeany, because you sound like a super-patient saint to me and anyone who's been through it for any length of time will know how constant qs. would drive even the saintliest saint bonkers.