They refer to it as the Dementia Epidemic. As many as 5.2 million people in America are living with this disease.
To review: Dementia is an umbrella term describing a variety conditions that develop when nerve cells in the brain die or no longer function normally. The damages to these nerve cells cause changes in one’s memory, behavior and ability to think clearly
In the next installment in the series, I’d like to discuss a common trait exhibited by individuals diagnosed with dementia: Repetitive behavior. That behavior may be exhibited as an action- like searching for something, changing the channels on the remote, or verbally-like repeating a question, or making the same statement over and over.
For caregivers, repetitive behavior is enough to get on your last nerve.
You may remember Bill Murray’s memorable performance in Goundhog Day, the 1993 movie where he plays Phil- a TV weatherman doomed to live out the same day every day, for the rest of his life. Answering the same question over and over, day after day can make you feel like Phil, and you are certainly not alone.
First let’s talk about some of the reasons a person with dementia may repeat. The most obvious reason is short term memory loss. Sometimes dementia progresses to the point where the sufferer actually forgets they just asked that question, even in the midst of conversation. So they ask it again. And again. Other reasons can include the inability to grasp what’s going on. Feeling unsure about their situation leads to anxiety and stress. That one question or statement may in fact be the only cognitive thought they can express, so they repeat it. Boredom is a contributing factor as well. If the person with dementia has no social stimulation and no daily activities in which to engage, the mind can simply travel in a “loop” with no outlet. As an example, a woman may endlessly search for her purse, others may seek their car keys all day long. These behaviors may be a non-verbal expression that they just want something to do.