Repeats behaviors over and over

  All Alzheimer's Symptoms

When it happens

Moderate stage

Why it happens

A combination of memory loss and changes in the executive functioning parts of the brain can cause someone with dementia to fixate on an action, a type of behavior known as "perseveration." The person wants to do the same thing again and again. He or she may also be expressing restlessness. Without other things to do, the brain falls back on rote memories of certain things done in the past (such as wanting to "go to work").

The behavior that he or she is "stuck" on may be wanting to go to a particular place, buying the same thing repeatedly, or doing something over and over around the house and yard -- picking up sticks, rummaging in a drawer, packing and unpacking, dialing the phone, plumping pillows.

What you can do:

  • Be patient. Remember it's the disease at work.

  • Stay alert to the possibility that repetitive, restless behavior can also indicate boredom.

  • Try to substitute another activity. Someone who wants to pick up sticks might like to help pot or water plants, for example. Someone who feels he needs to go to work might welcome putting stamps on a stack of envelopes.

  • Try to divert attention with a change of scenery: Go to another room, have a snack, get some fresh air.

  • Indulge the behavior if it seems harmless; some repetitive behaviors are self-soothing.