During the course of doing estate, trust, and elder financial abuse litigation, we frequently experience the challenge of responding to elderly Alzheimer's patients who ask the same question over and over again. Given the widely different listeners' reactions to this repetitive behavior I thought that it might be helpful to share some of the things that I've learned.
I want to give credit to an article by DailyCaring titled 4 Ways To Respond When Someone With Alzheimer's Keeps Repeating Questions. The article expresses compassion for both the speaker and the listener. Let's face it - it's not easy responding to the same question the fifth or fifteenth time. So how should we approach this?
Experts tell us that repetitive questions stem from the speaker's need for reassurance in the face of stress or anxiety. So what do experts recommend for the listener?
- Respond to the emotions, not the words. I've been asked over and over again questions like what is my name or what do I do. I've truly been baffled as to how many times I should answer the same question. I've tried differing my voice inflections, adding humor or changing my demeanor to get beyond the questions. It doesn't work too well. So the experts tell us to try to figure out what emotion the elder is really expressing. Maybe a handshake or hand squeeze might be enough to calm the senior and allow the senior's anxiety to decrease.
- Keep your answers brief. Keep it short and simple. This will reduce your own anxiety when you're answering the question for the seventh time.
- Distract with an activity. Offer a snack or beverage. Maybe start a conversation about something else. This works sometimes.
- Escape for a few minutes. Everyone has a breaking point where patience turns to exasperation. Leave for a few minutes - when you return, your kindness may also return.
We often see elderly people in our practice. It is common that an adult child brings a non-driving elderly parent to meet with us regarding a disputed trust or an estate lawsuit. It's understandable that the child wants to correct the elder or gets frustrated over repetitive behavior. I try to let adult children know that I have some understanding of Alzheimer's and dementia issues. I get that some answers and behavior may be "off the wall." That's ok - we do our best to focus on kindness and get to the real issues that have to be addressed. Sometimes these issues involve litigation against a wrongdoer or the simple appointment of a successor trustee.
We receive many calls from throughout the country about trust and estate issues. Hackard Law focuses on estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation across California. These areas include Santa Clara County, Sacramento County, Alameda County and Los Angeles. If you have a problem that may involve litigation over a will, trust or elder financial abuse, call us at 916 313-3030. We'll be happy to speak with you.