Repetition is verbal (also referred to as perseverating, where your wife may repeat the same question) or physical (repetitive movements like rubbing hands together again and again). Unfortunately, people who perseverate are often characterized as “attention seekers.” In truth, she has little insight or control over this.

Possible causes:

  • Feelings of insecurity or loss
  • Loneliness
  • Separation from a loved one
  • Under or over-stimulation
  • Inability to express a need (e.g.  Someone fidgeting with clothes may need to go to the bathroom.)


  • Distract with activities he enjoys like a walk or snacking.
  • Respond to the emotion behind her question.
  • Give him something to occupy his hands.
  • Consult with staff to see if you can fit the repetitive action into household chores (e.g. dusting the same area over and over again).
  • Speak calmly and answer the question like the first time.

Example: Lily continually asks why her mother hasn't visited, even though she passed away many years ago.


  • Say, “Don’t you remember?  Your mother died 25 years ago. You know better than that. Your mother would be 113 if she were still alive!” She will respond as if she were hearing it for the first time, every time, and grieve.


  • Respond to the emotion behind the question.  Is she feeling insecure? 
  • Show family photos or tell stories, which often restore a sense of intimacy and feelings of warmth in place of the person.

Example: Adam taps his fingers on the arm of his wheel chair…tap, tap, tap… from morning until bed.


  • Ask him to stop repeatedly. 
  • If that fails, restrain his hands.


  • Ask yourself who the behaviour bothers?  If it isn’t bothering anyone else, do nothing.
  • Turn the behaviour into an activity (e.g. Give him a cloth and ask for help with dusting) 
  • Play music and get his tapping match the beat.

Last Updated: 11/08/2017