1. llamalady

    llamalady Registered User

    Jan 2, 2016
    My Mother in law has developed a new behaviour; an idea or phrase seems to lodge in her brain and she repeats it ad infinitum. My Father in law tries to respond to what she is saying but without any sign that MiL registers what he says.
    He is clearly distressed by the cycle. Is there a more effective way of managing this situation? Distraction doesn't seem to work and although MiL doesn't respond to what FiL says she becomes more agitated if her behaviour is ignored. Also, is there a recognised term for this behaviour?
  2. Izzy

    Izzy Volunteer Moderator

    Aug 31, 2003
  3. llamalady

    llamalady Registered User

    Jan 2, 2016
    Thanks for getting back to me. The post was interesting and is how most of the people around MiL respond most of the time - reflection and distraction. It's good to know that that is what is recommended . I guess I wasn't clear about what's happening now, what is new. MiL will form an idea, for instance that she wishes to meet someone whose name she has heard on TV, or repeating how many of a certain item there are in front of her, and become fixated on that. Agreement, reflection, distraction aren't helping her move on. The behaviour can go on for well over an hour and only ends if she falls asleep. I was hoping that there might be something else, another strategy to break the repetition. MiL seems trapped in the cycle, not happy to be there, every bit as much as FiL is trapped by it.
  4. Ann Mac

    Ann Mac Registered User

    Oct 17, 2013

    Hi llamalady - welcome to TP :)

    I think that what you describe is soemthing that I experience frequently with my Mil (Mum-in-law). I also call them 'loops' and I have so much sympathy for your Fil, because they are extremely difficult to cope with - they are very much a 'groundhog day' torture.

    With Mil, I find that some are very much routine specific. We have what I call the 'coat loop'. Once she is washed, dressed and breakfasted, ready to go to day care and waiting for the mini bus, she starts to ask 'Shall I put my coat on? Shall I get my coat now? I'd better put my coat on now' over and over and over. I explain that its 'too warm to wear it' in the house, that its better that she waits for the mini bus before putting it on, but often she is asking again before I even finish answering. She resists any form of distraction - cups of tea, asking her to 'tidy the cushions', putting the TV on, trying all sorts of chat - and just keeps returning to 'I'll put my coat on now, shall I?', getting more persistent and cross with every passing minute. I have tried just letting her put the darn coat on, but each and every time she then goes into another loop of getting really agitated, demanding that I open the door so she can go and 'catch her bus/train', worrying she will be 'late for work', she will even quickly go to hammering on the door to get out and will bruise and hurt her hands. The only way I've found to lessen the impact of this one is that we have changed the 'routine' here, husband getting up earlier for work and using the bathroom first, so I can leave Mil in bed longer and it cuts down on the time between her being ready to go and the mini van arriving, leaving less time for the 'loop' to go on for. There are similar loops around other routines - her taking up to 15 minutes to get ready for bed, as she pulls her pull up incontinent pants up and down, so they can be changed and repeatedly asks 'Its it these you want me to take off? These things? Am I to take these off?'. I've yet to find a way to deal effectively with that one, I'm afraid - it drive me mad, but all I can do is grit my teeth and try to stay patient. Its really hard.

    Some of the loops are repeated, but not set in stone as to when or what starts them - we can have periods of up to 4 or 5 hours, where she is adamant that she either has to go outside on the patio (even if its pitch dark or if its pouring down) or into the kitchen (where she is not allowed, for safety and hygiene reasons) for a host of frequently varied but always invented reasons. Her determination, persistence and resistence to any form of distraction are incredibly frustrating and hard to deal with. If she pushes me (or the family as a whole) to absolute distraction, then we resort to asking/telling her to go the her room - because even if its a terribly age-innapropriate thing to do, sometimes just a change of environment can stop these loops (and other forms of difficult behaviours too).

    I have found that these 'loops' can dissappear, or be replaced by other behaviours over time. Just 4 months or so ago, Mil had a 'lipstick loop' where she would insist on applying lippy anything up to 12 or 13 times before going out - she looked like a Poor Man's 'Baby Jane', but you simply couldn't reason with her or distract - but that seemed to stop really abruptly, for no reason I can fathom, and she rarely bothers with lipstick now.

    I don't know if this has been of any use - other than perhaps knowing that others have the same behaviours to cope with maybe bringing a little comfort to your poor Fil. I do feel for him - these loops are just so incredibly upsetting and frustrationg to cope with xxxx
  5. Quilty

    Quilty Registered User

    Aug 28, 2014
    Have you tried music? She might get a tune in her head instead and hum or sing? Always worth a try for my mum.
  6. llamalady

    llamalady Registered User

    Jan 2, 2016
    The coat loop made me smile. OH takes his Mum out for a few hours once a week. As he arrives, after an hour drive, he is met not with a cup of tea but by MiL on the doorstep, in her coat, demanding to know where they are going. He gets his cup of tea with her in the cafe round the corner before they set out on their trip...
    Music sounds like it might be worth a try. Thank you both.
  7. Pear trees

    Pear trees Registered User

    Jan 25, 2015
    My mum also repeats the same question or phrase over and over again. ' When am I at lunchclub, what time is my bus coming, I have no food, I am being left to starve, no one comes to see me' is repeated all the time and no amount of distraction will work for more than a few moments. I have tried a cup of tea, tv and music, showing her the cupboards full of food and simply walking out of the room for 10 minutes. I find now the best way is to go onto autopilot and repeat the same replies over and over again.
  8. fizzie

    fizzie Registered User

    Jul 20, 2011
    Some of this is stress related. If you imagine taking away any points of reference in your life - time, place, people, communication - because you can't remember what happened 30 seconds ago then the world becomes a very frightening and very unpredictable place. A life full of directions by others and in many ways total reliance when you have had a lifetime of being in control!! Loops are reassuring - they put back some sense of control over life, they maintain a sense of 'self' knowing what 'self' is doing. Not very helpful of me in a practical sense but sometimes understanding that gives a slightly different perspective. Constant reasssurance is essential in my opinion - very hard to do when you are climbing the walls lol

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