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People with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may exhibit some unusual behaviours which may be frustrating or confusing for both the individual and caregiver. Here are some tips on how to address a loved one if they’re demonstrating repetition or agitation.


A person living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may engage in repetitive behaviours such as asking questions over and over or calling over and over.

Reasons for Repetition

  • They may feel lonely or separated from a loved one.
  • Under or over-stimulation.
  • Inability to express a need.
  • Feelings of insecurity or loss.

How to Respond

  • Look for a reason behind their repetition.
    • Do their questions occur around certain surroundings or do they call over repetitively at a certain time every day?
  • Focus on their emotions and not the behaviour.
    • Instead of reacting to what they’re doing, try to stay calm and think about how the other person may be feeling, which may explain their behaviours. For instance, they may be anxious or confused.
  • Try to stay calm and be patient.
    • Try to listen to the person and reassure them using a calm voice. Do not argue. It is important to understand the other person’s point of view as dementia affects memory, and the person may not even remember they had asked that question already.
  • Provide an answer
    • Try to provide your loved one with an answer they are looking for, even if that means you have to sometimes repeat yourself several times or answer the phone multiple times.
  • Keep the person occupied in an activity
    • The individual may be engaging in repetitive behaviours, simply because they may be bored. Therefore, organize a structured activity that can keep their mind off other things.

Sources: Alzheimer Society Canada, Alzheimer’s Association


A person with dementia may feel agitated; this may lead to the following behaviours:

  • Getting upset
  • Crying
  • Pacing
  • Swearing
  • Repetitive words, phrases, or talking
  • Screaming

Although these behaviours can be frustrating and stressful for families and caregivers, it’s important to have patience and understand why these behaviours occur. For instance, often times it is out of the control of the person living with dementia and it could be due to chemical changes in their brain.

Reasons for Agitation

  • Moving to a new place.
  • Changes in a familiar environment such as having houseguests over or hospitalization.
  • Changes in caregiver arrangements.
  • Acute or chronic pain.
  • Sensory impairment.
  • Sleep disturbance.
  • Misperceived threats.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or confused.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dehydration.

How to Respond

  • Redirect the person’s attention with a calm and positive tone.
  • Use visual and verbal cues, ie: gestures.
  • Try to simplify tasks and routines.
  • Monitor personal comfort.
  • Engage them in activities.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine or alcohol your loved one consumes.

Example: A family visits their father and notices that he can’t keep still and is actively picking at something on his clothes. His wife is getting upset with this type of behaviour.


  • Don’t ask him to stop.
  • Don’t tell him to calm down.
  • Don’t raise your voice.


  • Give him something to hold
  • Distract his attention with music, or talk about a happy moment in his life.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Ask yourself: is the enviornment too noisy or bright? Or is he tired?

Sources: Alzheimer Society Canada, A Place for Mom