ASK DR. MINDY™
MINDY KIM-MILLER, MD, PhD
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I have been taking care of my mom, who is diagnosed with advanced/severe Alzheimer’s, around the clock for the past two years. Right now my biggest struggle is how to deal with her saying, “please help me,” every 15-20 seconds for hours on end every morning. I’m just about at the end of my rope with this one, and in all appearances there is nothing she really needs. Can you please help with this?
Repetitive vocalizations and other repetitive behaviors can be caused by feelings of insecurity, fear, frustration, stress, anxiety, or depression.
Sometimes repetitive behaviors are in response to an unmet need or want. It is important for caregivers to check for any needs or wants, such as toileting, hunger, thirst, pain, a desired object, or meaningful activity. Figuring out what the person needs or wants requires careful observation of the person’s vocalizations, expressions, body language and environment.
Physical illness can be a cause of behavior changes and difficult behaviors. You should have a physician evaluate your mother to see if there is a medical issue contributing to her behavior. Pain is a common cause of repetitive requests for help. People with dementia often have difficulty telling others that they are in pain. If your mother has pain issues, a physician should determine the cause and treat the symptoms as well as the underlying cause if possible.
Another possibility is that her current medications might be contributing to her behavior. Perhaps the medications you give her in the mornings are causing stomach pain or upset. If that is the case, she may benefit from changing her medication regimen, giving her medications with food, or adding an anti-reflux medication. Some medications can actually cause repetitive behaviors as an adverse side effect. Discuss these possibilities with her physician, and work with a physician if adding or changing current medications.
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