Why Do Dementia Patients Keep Calling?

If you’ve ever had a loved one or a patient with dementia, you might have noticed a common behavior: they keep calling, even when you’ve just spoken to them. This repetitive calling can be both frustrating and concerning, especially if you don’t understand why it’s happening. In this blog post, we’ll explore the reasons behind this behavior and shed some light on why dementia patients keep calling.

Communication Difficulties

Non-Verbal Communication

One of the primary reasons dementia patients keep calling is their difficulty with communication. Dementia affects the brain’s ability to process and express thoughts clearly, leading to confusion and frustration. Imagine being in a foreign country without knowing the local language; you would naturally reach out for help or attempt to make yourself understood. Similarly, dementia patients call out as a way to communicate their needs or express their confusion.

For example, an individual with dementia might call out for assistance in finding a familiar object or ask for help with a basic task like using the bathroom. Their calls are an attempt to bridge the gap in their understanding and seek support from those around them.

Memory Loss and Disorientation

Stress and Anxiety in Old people

Another key factor contributing to repetitive calling in dementia patients is memory loss and disorientation. Dementia impairs memory function, making it difficult for individuals to retain and recall information. They may not remember if they’ve already asked a question or had a conversation, leading them to call repeatedly on the same topic.

Consider a scenario where a dementia patient asks about the time of day and receives an answer. However, due to memory loss, they may forget the response and call again a few minutes later, hoping to find the information they’ve already forgotten. It’s important to remember that their repeated calls stem from genuine confusion rather than intentional annoyance.

Emotional Needs and Loneliness

lonely old man

Beyond the challenges of communication and memory, dementia patients also experience emotional needs and feelings of loneliness. The condition can cause feelings of isolation, as they struggle to recognize familiar faces or engage in meaningful conversations. As a result, they may resort to calling others as a way to seek companionship or express their emotional distress.

Imagine feeling alone and disconnected from the world, unsure of who to turn to for support. Dementia patients often face this reality, leading them to reach out through phone calls to connect with others and alleviate their sense of isolation.

Sundowning and Restlessness

Stress and Anxiety in older man

Sundowning is a phenomenon commonly observed in individuals with dementia, where their symptoms worsen as the day progresses. During the evening or nighttime, they may become more agitated, confused, or restless, leading to increased calling behavior. The underlying reasons for sundowning are not fully understood, but it’s believed to be influenced by changes in the brain’s internal clock and disruptions in sleep-wake cycles.

During these moments, dementia patients may feel a heightened sense of anxiety or fear, prompting them to call out for reassurance or assistance. Understanding the connection between sundowning and increased calling can help caregivers respond with patience and empathy.

Unmet Physical or Emotional Needs

Trust and Comfort

Dementia patients may also keep calling if they have unmet physical or emotional needs. They might be hungry, thirsty, in pain, or experiencing discomfort but struggle to express these needs clearly. By calling repeatedly, they hope to capture someone’s attention and convey their distress, hoping for relief or assistance.

For instance, a dementia patient who is feeling cold might call out for a sweater, even if they don’t remember where it is or how to ask for it directly. By understanding that their repeated calls are a sign of unmet needs, caregivers can assess the situation and provide appropriate support.

Is the repetitive calling a sign of their condition worsening or something else?

She calls or texts you constantly

Repetitive calling can indeed be a sign that your parents’ dementia is worsening, but it’s important to consider other factors as well. Dementia is a progressive condition that affects memory, cognition, and behavior, and repetitive calling is one of the common symptoms observed in individuals with dementia. 

For example, your parents may repeatedly call your name or ask the same question multiple times within a short period. This behavior can be a result of memory loss or difficulty in processing information, which are characteristic features of dementia.

However, it’s crucial not to jump to conclusions based solely on repetitive calling. There could be other explanations for this behavior, such as anxiety, confusion, or even hearing difficulties. 

For instance, your parents might be experiencing heightened anxiety due to unfamiliar surroundings or changes in routine, leading them to seek reassurance through repetitive calling. Additionally, if they have difficulty hearing, they may repeatedly call to ensure that their message is being heard.

To determine whether the repetitive calling is a sign of worsening dementia or something else, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional. A qualified healthcare provider, such as a geriatrician or neurologist, can conduct a thorough evaluation to assess cognitive function and rule out other potential causes. 

They may perform cognitive tests, review medical history, and consider other symptoms or behavioral changes to make an accurate diagnosis. This comprehensive assessment will help distinguish between dementia-related repetitive calling and other contributing factors.

Is there anything I can do to reduce the frequency of their calls without neglecting their needs?

Firstly, communication is key. Have an open and honest conversation with the person to discuss your concerns and find a mutually agreeable solution. For example, you can suggest scheduling regular check-ins at specific times instead of multiple calls throughout the day. This way, they still receive the support they need, but the frequency of calls is reduced.

Another helpful approach is to encourage self-reliance and independence. Empower the person to handle certain tasks or situations on their own. Provide them with resources, tools, or instructions that enable them to solve common problems without relying solely on phone calls. This can help build their confidence and decrease their need to reach out for assistance constantly.

Additionally, consider implementing technology-based solutions. Explore alternative methods of communication that are less intrusive than phone calls. For instance, you can introduce them to instant messaging apps or encourage email communication. These platforms allow for asynchronous communication, giving both parties the flexibility to respond at their convenience.

Furthermore, establishing clear boundaries can be effective in managing frequent calls. Set realistic expectations regarding availability and let the person know when it’s appropriate to contact you. By defining specific timeframes or situations when calls are appropriate, you can avoid unnecessary interruptions while still being there for them when it’s truly necessary.

Lastly, encourage the person to seek support from other sources. Help them build a network of individuals who can provide assistance or companionship. This can include family members, friends, or community organizations. By diversifying their support system, the person can distribute their needs across different people, reducing the reliance on a single individual, namely you.

Remember, finding the right balance between addressing someone’s needs and reducing the frequency of calls requires open communication, empowerment, technological solutions, clear boundaries, and expanding their support network. Implementing these strategies can help create a healthier dynamic while ensuring that their needs are still met.

How can I decipher what my parent is trying to communicate when they call, especially if their speech is becoming more fragmented?

First and foremost, try to create a calm and comfortable environment for your parent during the phone call. Choose a quiet location with minimal distractions, ensuring that you can focus on their words without interruptions. 

Additionally, it’s helpful to maintain a positive and relaxed tone in your own speech, as this can help alleviate any potential anxiety or frustration they may be feeling. For example, you can begin the conversation by saying, “Hey Mom/Dad, how are you doing today? I’m really glad we have the chance to talk.”

As the conversation progresses, actively listen to your parent’s words, paying attention to the main points they’re trying to convey. Remember, it’s not just about the specific words they use, but also the emotions and intentions behind their speech. 

Try to pick up on non-verbal cues as well, such as tone of voice and facial expressions, which can provide valuable context for their message. If you notice any confusion or unclear statements, don’t hesitate to politely ask for clarification. For instance, you can say, “I want to make sure I understand you correctly. Can you please explain that part again?”

To aid comprehension, it can be beneficial to provide prompts or reminders during the conversation. Gently guide the discussion by asking specific questions or offering choices that relate to the topic at hand. 

For instance, if your parent is discussing their plans for the day, you can ask, “Are you planning to go for a walk in the morning or in the afternoon?” These prompts can help them recall relevant information and provide clearer responses.

Furthermore, be aware that using visual aids or written notes can assist in enhancing understanding. Sharing photos, sending emails with key points, or writing down important details during the conversation can serve as useful references for both you and your parent. Additionally, utilizing technology like video calls or screen sharing can enable a more interactive and visual communication experience.

Lastly, don’t forget to express your love, support, and encouragement throughout the conversation. Let your parent know that you value their thoughts and opinions and that you are there to help them communicate effectively. Building a strong emotional connection will not only foster better communication but also create a comforting atmosphere that encourages your parent to share their thoughts more openly.


Dementia patients keep calling due to a combination of communication difficulties, memory loss, emotional needs, sundowning, and unmet physical or emotional needs. Understanding the underlying reasons behind this behavior can help caregivers and loved ones respond with compassion and patience.

If you have experience with dementia patients, we would love to hear your insights and strategies for handling repetitive calling in the comments section below. How do you approach this behavior and ensure the needs of dementia patients are met while maintaining your own well-being? Let’s engage in a conversation and share our collective wisdom.

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