Perseveration refers to the repetition of a certain word, phrase, or gesture. Dementia patients often repeat a word, question, statement, or activity over and over. They repeat what they say or do because they do not remember that they have just asked a question or completed a task. They ask because they may be trying to seek help or express a specific concern.
This repetitive behavior is due to the deterioration of the person’s brain cells that consequently affects his ability to make sense of the world. Certain environmental elements can also trigger the symptoms or make perseveration worse. Repetition may also be the individual’s way of coping with frustration, insecurity, or anxiety. Perseveration does not pose a threat to the patient with dementia. But, it can be irritating and stressful for his care provider..
As his care provider, therefore, you must keep in mind that it is the disease causing the behavior, not the person. When your loved one gradually loses his ability to communicate, it is important that you regularly monitor his comfort and anticipate his needs. You can help ease the situation of perseveration by applying the following tips.
Identify the reason for the repetition. When does the repetition usually occurs? Is there a certain time of day when the person behaves this way? Or, does the repetition occurs around specific surrounding or people? Instead of focusing on what he is doing, try to figure out how he is feeling. it would be easier for you to respond more effectively if you take notice of the emotion and need behind his behavior. Be keen on his nonverbal cues and behavior. An act of pulling at his clothing may indicate a need to use the bathroom.
Provide an answer or memory aid. It’s not easy to be asked the same question or to be told the same story again and again. But, you have to put up with the person. Recognize that your loved one may be repeating himself because he needs a certain kind of response. Perhaps, he just needs to communicate and feel close to someone. If this is the case, try changing the topic to something that you find more interesting. This way, it would be easier for you to stay talking with the person.
If for example, the person keeps on asking the time, you may install a large clock. Or, if he frequently asks for certain information, you may provide a notebook or a diary that contains what he keeps asking for.
Turn his action or behavior into an activity. When you see that your loved one keeps on folding the edge of her clothing, she may be bored and needs something to do. Engage her in a pleasant activity. You may ask her to help you with the folding of her other clothes or some other chores.
Also, take note of the subject that the person keeps on talking about. It might represent a need that he has at the moment. For example, recalling about a key achievement in the past might have been making him feel wanting. In this case, organize a meaningful activity from which he can achieve something.
Respond with affection and reassurance. Speak to the person with a voice and gentle touch. Sometimes, a hug and praise are all he needs when he is confused. Do not argue or employ logic.
Perseveration may suggest the person’s need for information. It could also mean an emotional need. As his care provider, therefore, it is important that you accept the behavior as a reality of the disease. And you have to find ways to work with it.