What is the best approach when my father can't remember the answer to the question he just asked again?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My father has Parkinson's and dementia. What is the best approach with him when he continues to repeat a question and truly does not remember the answer? I have him in a nursing home and they are working with him on his memory but until he progresses it gets frustrating.


Expert Answer

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's. A Met Life Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow, she writes extensively about health and caregiving; four of her family members have had dementia.

The best approach is just what it sounds like you're doing, which is to provide the answer again as if he's asking it for the first time. He truly does not remember your previous answer, which is why he's asked again. Try not to show your frustration or berate him for the repetition.  If after several rounds of this you've had enough, try to re-direct the conversation to a different topic. Move to a new room with new stimuli. If he still comes back to the same question, this is an indication that the answer is really important to him, so answer it once again. Sometimes it can help to write down an answer, such as to what time something is happening: "Doctor's appointment, 4 o'clock." Then you can refer to the paper.

You should understand that Parkinson's related dementia is a progressive neuro-degenerative disease. That is to say, his memory will not improve significantly. It may remain as is for a long time, or it will steadily decline. While some things are thought to boost cognitive function, such as exercise, there's no known way to improve or regain memory with a neuro-degenerative dementia.