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Sign of Dementia: Repetitive Behavior

Dementia is the umbrella term for someone with two or more forms of cognitive impairment. One of the signs of dementia is repetitive behavior. Seeing a loved one frequently repeat a phrase or task could possibly be a sign of a cognitive disorder. Dementia is not entirely preventable and there is no known cure. Below you will find more information on what behaviors may follow a dementia diagnosis, why the behaviors exist, as well as tips and advice for how to handle these difficult situations. 

What to Expect

Although not every person suffering from dementia will exhibit repetitive behavior, it is very likely they will. You can expect someone with dementia to repeat the same questions or phrases over and over again. Someone struggling with dementia may also perform the same tasks repeatedly. Less common but also possible are repetitions of the same noise or gesture almost like a tourette. 

There are a variety of reasons why this happens, but one explanation is that they may be searching for comfort or familiarity. Knowing and understanding why your loved one is acting out in this way is key to learning how to manage their repetitive behaviors. 

Causes of Repetitive Behavior

Memory loss is the main cause of repeating words, sounds, phrases, questions, or actions. Sometimes the simplest explanation is that your loved one is repeatedly asking you what time it is because they don’t remember that they already asked you, and/or don’t remember what your answer was. Deterioration of brain cells is a symptom of dementia, so diminished brain function causes this type of forgetfulness. 

However, repetitive behavior is sometimes the key to understanding a different need that isn’t being met. It is wise to consider asking yourself if the confused person is hungry, tired, bored, anxious or needs to use the restroom. All of these underlying emotions can lead to acting out with repetitive behaviors. 

How to Manage Repetitive Behavior

The good news is that there are professionals with years of experience handling these situations who share what they have learned. Of course everyone will be different. It will take some trial and error to find what works best for you and your loved one, but the following are a few suggestions of how to manage this dementia symptom. 

Be Patient

Getting agitated or impatient will only make the situation worse. The confused person will feed off of that energy and your emotions could end up escalating the situation. 


Sometimes distraction is the best medicine. Choose an activity that you know they enjoy doing, or at least get a change of scenery to help act as a reset for them and for yourself. 

Visual Reminders

If a loved one keeps asking about the date or time the simplest solution could be to put clocks and calendars where they can easily be read. Pictures and notes can be helpful depending on how advanced the dementia is. 

Root of the Behavior

Getting to the root of the problem helps reduce repetitive behavior because if the repetition is stemming from an unmet need it will continue until you have identified the real issue. 

Track Trends

Tracking trends is a way to help identify the root of the problem. Take note of what time of day the behavior is happening and how often. What were they doing right before? Who were they with? What helped in the past? Being able to pinpoint triggers means that you can prepare for them or avoid them altogether. 


Establishing a schedule or routine is something that has proven to help those with dementia. Consistency is key in minimizing stress and anxiety and making sure that your loved one doesn’t get overly hungry, tired or bored. 

Memory Care can Help

If the situation has become overwhelming to you, The Gables can help. Whether you need a break for a few hours or are searching for long-term care alternatives, you can find both at your local Gables facility. Memory care facilities are a little different than regular assisted living facilities. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help your loved one with dementia.

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