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How to Deal with Parents that Repeat Themselves

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How to Deal with Parents that Repeat Themselves

By Carol Bradley Bursack,

One sign of the aging brain, even without dementia, is that people repeat themselves more often, especially when they tell stories. There are reasons for this that are not related to dementia, though of course with dementia, this tendency has a different root and is much more frequent. We’ll discuss dementia shortly.

How to Handle a Parentís Bad Behavior

Why Would an Aging Person Repeat Stories if No Dementia is Present?

As we age, life takes on a different perspective. There’s a human need to make sense of what has happened in one’s past, and reflect on what will be our legacy. The added years give us a chance to view our past with distance and some perspective. Retelling stories about our past is one way to work through this process.

In other words, if your parents retell a story every now and then, and you think “I’ve heard that a hundred times,” please have the patience to let them tell it again. Your elder is working through the past to find a sense of meaning. Elders often want, consciously or unconsciously, to figure out how events shaped their present, and will play into their future and beyond.

But That’s Different Than When Someone has Dementia!

I wrote the information above because I feel that adult children, once they understand the importance of an elder retelling personal stories, will perhaps have more patience with their elders. I also would like younger folks to know that the fact that their elder repeats some stories doesn’t necessarily mean the elder has dementia.

However, my heart does go out to the many of you who must listen to the same statement 20 times in an hour, because the parent or other loved one has†dementia†and has lost short-term memory. This short-term memory loss makes it impossible for the person with dementia to remember what they just said, so they say it again Ė and again Ė and again.

Next: How Do Caregivers Handle This Repetition Without Losing Our Own Sanity?

Read more:
A Caregiverís Story: Getting Into a Dementia Patientís Head
Dreams and Past Events: What is Reality for People With Dementia?
Things People With Dementia Say: Common Phrases and How to Reply

What To Do When a Parent Repeats the Same Things Over and Over originally appeared on

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5:25PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

Sometimes these things work, but often they don't. You just have to keep on trying--it's very frustrating to care for an elderly person. Patience is key.

4:35AM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

Thank you for the reminder. Validation can also cause anxiety. My mother called & wanted her mother's phone number to ask her some questions. When I told her her mother was no longer living she became very upset as she said no one had told her & when it happened. Realizing this increasing anxiety & agitation, I switched tactics & just told her we could not call her mother as she did not have a phone & besides it was likely she was sleeping as it was 9L00pm at nite. This seemed to calm her somewhat but then she became angry when I could not give her the number & hung up on me. Dementia or Alzheimer is a terrible disease & most difficult for the family to watch a parent or loved one fade away from you. My sister & I try to to the best we can, using the techniques you have mentioned & just remember that she does not even remember things after 5 minutes, so there is no reason for us to get our feelings hurt over something she may have said or done.

7:04PM PDT on Jul 18, 2012


6:46PM PDT on Jul 18, 2012

ll the comments. Some good, some not. I noticed this dated back a year, but will pass info on to a relative whose Dad is doing this. But, he is 92 years old, and she just retired and is having trouble adjusting.

8:50AM PDT on Jul 18, 2012


5:58AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Good ideas. Thanks.

12:21AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Thanks for this info.

9:49AM PST on Dec 7, 2011


4:23AM PST on Dec 7, 2011

Thanks for the article.

12:23AM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

I just lost my wonderful dad. I would give anything to have him sitting in his favorite chair, telling me his stories over again. He so enjoyed telling his stories, I would always listen, and now he's gone. Enjoy your loved ones while you can, repeated stories and all, for one day you will never ever hear those stories again, or see the happiness in their eyes while they talk to you.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

Really good info! Thanks for sharing!

Already on the grocery list, but thanks.

Got High-Five's "I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)" in my head all day today from the car radio :O) …

thanks for this info..


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