My wife was in a bicycle accident nine months ago and sustained a TBI. Now, she often repeats sentences and questions over and over. For example, she’ll say things like, "It's time to feed the cats." "What are we having for dinner?" "Thank you for taking me to the movies." "Did you record it?" "Did Ari erase that?" She is capable of going through this cycle for hours. What is the best way to respond to her?
Your wife may ask a lot of questions because of problems with her memory. She may have forgotten what you have told her, so she asks for the same information again and again. People with TBI also can have difficulty planning and organizing their day, so they need a lot of help developing a routine. When your wife isn't engaged in something, she may turn to you to try and make some sense of what is happening. Another possibility is that your wife is perseverating — that is, her brain gets stuck and she can’t move on. It's like a tire being caught in a rut, or a record being stuck on one phrase.
If your wife is receiving speech therapy or other rehabilitation services, talk with her providers about what you're seeing. They may be able to help you understand what's happening.
In the meantime, here are some suggestions:
- Notice what happened right before she begins a cycle of questions and statements. Is it because she is tired, or anxious, or doesn’t know what to do next?
- If you see a pattern to what triggers these cycles, try to ward them off by getting her to rest or get involved in an activity.
- Write up a schedule of your daily activities. Go over the schedule with her periodically during the day. Remind her to look at it when she asks questions.
- Try to distract her with an activity, like watching something on TV, looking at a photo album, or helping to fold laundry.
Janet Brown, MA, CCC-SLP spent twenty years in practice at the Veterans Administration Medical Center and at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, DC. She is the former director of Health Care Services at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.