Alzheimer’s: Repetitive Behavior – Causes and How to Respond

Repetition is one of the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s. A person with Alzheimer’s may fixate on a specific phrase or action and repeat it over and over to self-soothe. As well, they may focus on undoing chore such as unmaking a bed, which can be troubling for them and their caregivers. An elder with Alzheimer’s may show these behaviors and these rituals may be performed as a means to recreate familiarity, comfort during moments of anxiety and cope with their emotional state. As these actions in repetition can be concerning for caregivers, it is valuable to connect with your physician and discuss treatment or strategies to assist in the care plan.


Alzheimer’s and other progressive dementia conditions are affected by the deterioration of brain cells which causes a decline in cognitive function and ability to reason independently. As this affects their mental capacity, it also creates behavioral issues. In regards to behavioral repetition, the individual may not know why they are repeating an action or phrase. Alternatively, they may know why they are performing the action but may not remember having done it more than once, thus if they know they need to say “hello” but cannot remember having already said “hello” then they may keep repeating it. As well, if there was a purpose behind the action, like a question or a task, they may forget the answer or the completion of the task. Therefore, they may keep asking the question and or completing the task as they have the reason to do so, but are unable to remember they have already done it.

There are also other environmental or social influences which may exacerbate the problem. People with dementia thrive in routine and stability, so if their home is chaotic and unpredictable, then it is more difficult for them to rely on their limited reasoning skills and memory bank to problem solve. They may be using the behavior as a way of communicating or solving a problem that needs to be addressed. Or as a means of maintaining control in a space that feels uncontrollable. It is valuable to try and create a safe and comfortable home and attempt to work with them to consider what anxiety they are focused on and how to make them feel more secure. Alzheimer’s is progressive so it is important to acknowledge that it will only become more difficult to communicate with them as the condition worsens. Therefore, it is useful to hire home care services to monitor their health, safety and support you using effective strategies.

How to Respond

  • Stay Calm – People with Alzheimer’s can be anxious and have difficulty with reasoning, so be patient with their behavior and gentle with your approach to their repetition.
  • Look for Clues – Find the reason behind the repetition and address their concerns or comfort their anxieties.
  • Find Meaning –If the person is performing an action, create meaning. If they are scribbling then give them a paper pad and call it art time.
  • Focus on Feelings – Hone in on their emotional state and address that, the behavior is usually a symptom of mental health.
  • Collaborate – Find the empathy and collaborate at that moment and accept the behavior if it is harmless. Maybe provide an answer or a different outlook or engage them in another activity if they are bored or restless.
  • Memory Aids –Using memory aids like notes, pictures, clocks, calendars and photographs can assist them in their reasoning skills during moments of fog.

Navigating symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be difficult so it is critical you have the support you need. Ensure you are connecting with a medical professional and a home care services company to have a team of experts to help you address the behavior. Hiring home care services can be particularly helpful because if the behavior is harmful then a professional caregiver can address it with the expertise to keep your elderly loved one safe. As well, they will be able to work with you in creating care plans and strategies that are effective specifically for people with Alzheimer’s and who have repetitive behavior symptoms.

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