A Personal Experience with Dementia

By Eileen, RVRB Family Member

It has been my personal experience as well as observing others’ experiences with the same issue–the penchant that Alz/ dementia sufferers have for asking the same question over and over again. This behavior is probably one of the most difficult to deal with. I think, too, that it is so difficult because it seems to start early in the disease, at least in my experience/observations.

Early on in the disease makes it even more difficult. I believe, because there is so much of the “original” person still evident. It is frequently hard to equate this (irritating) behavior with the “normal” person who is our loved one. It seems to be one of the behaviors that causes the family members the most stress.

The Epiphany

One day, several years before Joe moved into R.V. I had what I now refer to as an “epiphany” regarding this behavior. A “realization” if you will. It had been a difficult day with him sundowning and being generally irritable. After asking the same questions over and over again I was resorting to just ignoring him to preserve my sanity.

When I actually paid close attention to his questioning, I realized that although he sometimes asked the question a little differently the subject/ theme always remained the same. My big “revelation” was that he genuinely did not know he was asking me the same question over and over. To him, it was an “original” question each and every time.

personal experience with dementia

He was seeking an answer to whatever was on his mind at the moment. Once I realized that to him, this was an original question, I understood that he could not retain the answer. The need to have an answer was real for him.

So, I began treating his repetitive questions as if I had never heard them before. I gave him an answer each and every time he asked. That, in itself, made all the difference for me. I no longer was irritated, frustrated, or stressed at having to give the same answer over and over again. I now understood it was an original question to him simply because he was not able to retain the answer. Once I let go of the irritation/stress I was creating for myself, it became just another way to communicate with him on his level.

For Joe, the repetitive questioning has since stopped as his dementia has deepened, but the lesson he taught me has stayed with me. It helps me better understand at least one small aspect of his disease.

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