Why So Many Questions?

Ask the Expert: Why So Many Questions?

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.


Posted on BrainLine July 7, 2009.

Comments (11)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

My 36 yr old daughter acquired a severe, diffuse, axonal, TBI with serious short term memory loss. She talks non-stop and repeats the following phrases: “I love you, mom; You are so beautiful; You are so loved.” She will even say these phrases to strangers.
Not that I don’t like hearing these words come from her, however, they are truly repetitive (continually-during every waking moment-even during the numerous activities we involve ourselves in for a majority of relearning many different skills which we work on everyday).
Then she will want you to say these phrases back to her, or something very similar. If you don’t, she will ask me or the stranger Do you love me?; Am I pretty? etc. I’ve always let her know how loved, safe, beautiful, smart, strong, and how very important she is. I’m now very concerned because it’s like a robot talking. It’s driving me crazy because it’s like it’s the only phrases she knows to say, and that’s not the case. It’s so hard for me to explain this situation and I can’t imagine what’s going on in her mind. I’ve tried redirecting by saying I want to hear how smart and strong you are vs. how pretty I am. She doesn’t remember as she also acquired and has a severe case of short-term memory loss and will repeat what you were asking her not to say anymore.  There are a lot of issues we are experiencing but the above and below are what I’m having a very difficult time knowing how to change/retrain.
This other issue comes without warning and nothing has instigated and/or happened prior to this being shouted out.  She will look me square in the eyes and to the top of her lungs start calling me a few choice words/names that are obviously inappropriate and one particular word she calls me (ethnicity and doesn’t apply to me personally) and she never even used that word prior to the care wreck she was involved in. It takes approximately 45 secs up to 3-5 mins maybe longer for her to stop screaming these words/names out. Not all the time but more so than not, she will apologize for saying what she just screamed at me without me asking her to apologize. There are times I remind her how inappropriate that was and all she says is... I’m sorry mom I don’t know why I do that. She knows it’s wrong, but only after what I call a “Bangie fit” has stopped.
This next issue which is the least important to me but does concern me as I would love to know what she’s thinking or what made her forget who I am. There are times she will ask me “Where’s my real mom?” or “Where’s my mom?” My reply used to be... “I am your real mom or mom, honey.” Now I ask her what her real mom/Mom’s name is and then ask her what my name is and she gets both answers correct.” I then say... “So, I must be who?” She will say... “My real mom or mom.” I let her know that’s correct then ask her to spell my full name. She does this without any issues.

If you have any suggestions for any of the above especially the repeating phrases 24/7, non-stop talking, etc.  please let me know. I’m trying so hard to keep her at home with me, and unfortunately, it’s just my daughter and myself. I welcome all suggestions and any and all professional help and guidance to help me help my child!! Thank you for your time and I hope to receive any type of recommendations or training activities to stop the 24/7 non-stop talking and the repetitive phrases. 

It is interesting and validating to read the information and comments on this site. I have a sister who experienced a tbi a few years ago and we both are learning what this means and how it affects our inner and outer world. I look forward to visiting this site more .To know there is a community, in a sense another"family" and friends , here to gain awareness and support is hope instilling.
Please recommend any educational tbi books,audios ..you know of.

Over my head by Claudia osbourne (spelling?). Spot on!

My twins cannot stand repeating themselves to me and now believe I am pre Alzheimer! My TBI was 23 years ago. They get so surprised when I talk about where we lived 18 years ago and how I know the streets and don't get lost yet short term memory stuff is just chalked up to dementia and alzheimer! Where can I find info on 20 years after TBI and it's affects?

I suffered an acute concussion on May 11 th . Headaches , dizziness still persist . I also have lost the ability to express or feel emotions . Neither sad nor happy when I see or hear news that use to bring me tears of joy or sorrow . At times I feel anger for no reason . My speech is off at times . I'm also a chronic pain sufferer with a spinal cord stimulator implant . I'm forgetting to charge , and am not feeling the chronic pain I have lived with since 1993 . I barely notice my OCD . I even stole a moonlight off of someone's front yard with no remorse . When my daughter told me she was pregnant ( which I've waited years for ) I had to fake emotions of joy . I know I'm supposed to be over the moon , but I can't feel it . I don't want to be like this

Are concussions only happening now? Or were they always there?

To the lady in the top post, blonde comes from within, not a bottle or our genes. One of my favorite sayings before and after. It does become frustrating being told "happens to me all the time." Depending on who it is or how I'm doing that day changes my response. I've laughed it off as yeah, we're all human, told people how debilitating it is just to see their eyes glaze over bc they really can't 'get it'. Been met with compassion and pity where I wish I'd said nothing at all. I try to remember that we're all human and each sees only through their own perspective and I don't know and might not 'get' their battles either. I'm learning to rely on my cell for time and date and what I have to do next. Hugs and Goodness and Hope.

I can handle the pain, etc... but not knowing my world is the hardest of all.  When others don't understand I don't comprehend my world, it's worse because I was an intelligent woman (tho blonde :),  and when I'm doing things I know is incorrect, it's terribly embarrassing. My kids think I should just let it be and not explain.  That doesn't feel good to me. I feel like a very stupid human being, and they have questioning eyes at time, also.  When I quickly say with a joking manner "I have TBI, sorry, it's acting up."  I feel better, but I also think they may feel better knowing what is wrong.  Many clerks at the store will slow down, makes sure I have all my cards in the correct place, They look around to see if I've gotten everything, and my Service Dog is always welcome.  I don't know the day or the date.... and trying to get into a habit to look on the clocks.  But some don't have the day/date.  It's embarrassing when I have to ask over and over.  What I don't like is when it's treated as if it's a cold, and will be over soon if I'm patient.  I am getting more able to understand and agree, but it's harder when someone else blows it off as a senior moment and refrains from obvious help.  When they say "I do that all the time", I want to say "you mean you have to ask all day long - what day is this?"  Maybe you should be check! :)   I do want to be told with respect and at an appropriate time, if I've done something wrong or said something incorrect.  

I knew there had to be a nicer way. ;)

My husband does this. It has been 25 years since my TBI......open head injury in s car accident. He just doesn't get it.

But most of all, I would add, don't treat her like a child and do not make her feel stupid for repeating herself. Give her the respect she deserves and live her. I say this because I witnessed just the opposite. I saw what belittling and shaming did to a person. It was one of the saddest cases of mental and psychological abuse I have ever witnessed.