How to Redirect Repetitive Conversations With Someone With Dementia

 A young man holds a cup of coffee and smiles in the midst of having repetitive conversations with someone with dementia.
Try these tactics to effectively transition away from repetitive conversations with someone with dementia.

If you’ve ever played music on vinyl records, you know that the needle does not always track smoothly. Sometimes a tiny piece of debris or dust causes it to get stuck or skip, leaving you hearing just a few words of the song over and over again until the problem is addressed.

In Alzheimer’s disease as well as other types of dementia, memory blips can result in a similar effect described as conversation looping. Usually occurring in mild and moderate stages of the disease, these repetitive conversations with someone with dementia can look like this:

  • You are having an engaging conversation about your favorite football team’s recent victory.
  • The person with Alzheimer’s suddenly changes gears and asks you if you’ve completed your homework.
  • Understanding it is important to step into an alternate reality or timeframe with the individual, you respond that all of your homework is finished.
  • You then return to the conversation about the unbelievable touchdown that sealed the win.
  • The other person asks again if you’ve finished your homework.

What Is the Best Way to Handle Repetitive Conversations With Someone With Dementia?

It is beneficial to first understand why the behavior is occurring. We all experience repetition to varying degrees. We may forget that we have told a person a particular story or memory and tell them again. We also may repeat a question we have in mind, uncertain whether we actually asked the question or simply thought about it. These types of situations occur when we aren’t completely focused or paying close enough attention to the environment around us.

In contrast, conversation loops in dementia can occur as often as every few minutes. Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University Ira E. Hyman, Jr., Ph.D., shares that with cognitive impairment, “…the work of binding the elements of an experience into a personal memory is disrupted.”

It’s important to realize that correcting someone with dementia is never a successful tactic. Understanding that, it is advisable to continue to respond to the person’s repetitive story or question, keeping your reply brief. You can then try changing the topic to something you know is of specific interest to them now or was important to them in their younger years, as long-term memories stay intact considerably longer than more recent ones.

How a Specialized Dementia Caregiver Can Help

With so many challenging behaviors and symptoms to manage, taking care of an individual with dementia by yourself can be daunting. Our caregivers are specially trained in effective solutions to the challenges experienced in Alzheimer’s. Let us work with you to ensure the highest quality care for a person you love.

Whether you are struggling with wandering, sundowning, hallucinations, aggression, or any other complications a family member is experiencing from dementia, we are able to help. Contact us any time at 213-383-2273 for more information on our expert dementia care, available throughout Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood, and the surrounding areas.