If you have ever played music on vinyl records, you know that the needle does not always track smoothly. Occasionally a small bit of dust or debris causes it to get stuck or skip, leaving you hearing just a few words of the song again and again until the problem is addressed.
In Alzheimer’s disease as well as other forms of dementia, memory blips can result in a similar effect referred to as conversation looping. Typically occurring in mild and moderate stages of the disease, conversation loops in dementia may look like this:
- You’re having an enjoyable conversation about your favorite football team’s latest victory.
- The person with Alzheimer’s suddenly switches gears and asks you if you have finished your homework.
- Understanding it’s important to step into an alternate reality or timeframe with the individual, you respond that all of your homework is done.
- You then return to the conversation about the amazing touchdown that clinched the win.
- The other person asks again if you have finished your homework.
What Is the Best Way to Handle Conversation Loops in Dementia?
It helps to first understand why the behavior is occurring. We all experience repetition to some degree. We might forget that we have told a person a particular memory or story 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 kinds of situations occur when we are not completely focused or paying close enough attention to the environment around us.
In contrast, conversation loops in Alzheimer’s can happen as often as every few minutes. Ira E. Hyman, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University, shares that with cognitive impairment, “…the work of binding the elements of an experience into a personal memory is disrupted.”
It’s important to understand that correcting someone with dementia is never an effective tactic. With that in mind, it is best to continue to respond to the person’s repetitive question or story, keeping your answer brief. You can then change 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 remain intact a lot longer than more recent ones.
How a Specialized Alzheimer’s Caregiver Can Help
With so many challenging symptoms and behaviors to manage, caring for a person with dementia by yourself can be overwhelming. Our caregivers are specially trained in effective approaches to managing the challenges experienced in Alzheimer’s. Let us partner with you to ensure the highest quality care for a person you love.
Whether you are struggling with sundowning, wandering, aggression, hallucinations, or other complications a loved one is experiencing from dementia, we are here to help. Contact us any time at (805) 737-4357 for more information on our expert Alzheimer’s care, available throughout Lompoc, Santa Maria, Nipomo, and the nearby communities.