October 8, 2023 by Dean Bellefeuille

The adult child of a senior with dementia responds to conversation loops as they talk over coffee.

Anyone who’s listened to music on a record player knows that the needle doesn’t always track smoothly.  Sometimes a tiny piece of dust or debris causes it to skip or get stuck, leaving you hearing only a few words of the song over and over again until you address the problem.

Conversation loops caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are similar. Occurring in mild and moderate stages of the disease, it can look like this:

  • You’re talking about your newest favorite movie in theaters.
  • The loved one with dementia changes the subject and asks you if you’ve finished your homework.
  • Knowing it’s important to step into an alternate reality or timeframe with the person, you respond that all of your homework is completed.
  • You then resume the conversation about the exciting previews you’ve been seeing of the movie.
  • The other person asks again if you’ve finished your homework.

How to Best Navigate Conversation Loops?

The first step is understanding what’s causing the behavior. Everyone experiences some level of repetition. It’s easy to forget when we’ve told someone a funny story or memory, so we retell it. We also may repeat a question we have in mind, unsure whether we actually asked the question or simply thought about it. These types of situations occur when we aren’t fully focused or paying close enough attention to the environment around us.

However, people with dementia may experience conversation loops every few minutes. Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University Ira E. Hyman, Jr., Ph.D., explains that with cognitive impairment, “…the work of binding the elements of an experience into a personal memory is disrupted.”

Remember that it’s never a good idea to try to correct someone with dementia. So it’s most effective to continue to respond to whatever loop the person with dementia gets stuck in with a brief response. You can then change the topic to something you know is of particular interest to them now or was important to them in their younger years, as long-term memories remain intact much longer than more recent ones.

An Experienced Dementia Caregiver Can Help!

Handling the twists and turns of dementia symptoms alone can be daunting. Our caregivers are specially trained in effective approaches to managing the difficulties experienced in dementia. Let us work with you to ensure the highest quality care for someone you love.

Whatever dementia symptom a loved one may be experiencing – wandering, sundowning, aggression, hallucinations, or any other complications – we can help. Contact us any time online or at (315) 579-HOME (4663) to learn more about our expert dementia care, available throughout Syracuse, Camillus, Clay, and the surrounding areas.