Dementia Care: Responding to Conversation Loops in Dementia

The adult child of a senior needing dementia care talks to an older loved one over coffee.
These tips will help you navigate conversation loops in dementia care.


Have you ever played your favorite vinyl on a record player? If so, then you know that the needle doesn’t always track smoothly. Sometimes a small bit of dust or debris causes it to get stuck or skip, leaving you hearing only a few words of the song again and again until you address the issue.

As you provide dementia care, you may notice that lapses in memory can cause a similar effect known as conversation looping. Usually occurring in mild and moderate stages of the disease, it can look like this:

  • You are having a casual conversation about your favorite restaurant.
  • The loved one with dementia fixates on whether or not you’ve finished your homework.
  • Knowing it’s important to step into an alternative reality or timeframe with the individual, you respond that all of your homework is completed.
  • You then resume the conversation about the amazing meal you had at the restaurant.
  • The other person asks again if you have completed your homework.

How to Best Navigate Conversation Loops in Dementia Care

First, take a step back to recognize what’s causing the behavior. Everyone experiences some level of repetition. It’s not uncommon to forget we’ve told someone the same story before and retell it the next time we see them. We also may repeat a question we have in mind, uncertain whether we actually asked the question or simply just thought about it. These kinds of situations occur when we aren’t fully focused or paying close enough attention to the environment around us.

On the other hand, you may notice in dementia care that these conversation loops can happen as often as every couple of minutes. Ira E. Hyman, Jr., Ph.D., professor of psychology at Western Washington University, explains that with cognitive impairment, “…the work of binding the elements of an experience into a personal memory is disrupted.”

Remember that trying to correct someone with Alzheimer’s isn’t going to be the most productive tactic. Instead, it may be more effective to briefly respond to the person’s conversation loop. You can then try changing 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 stay intact considerably longer than more recent ones.

How a Specialized Dementia Caregiver Can Help

Dementia care can bring a host of challenging symptoms and behaviors to manage by yourself. Our caregivers are specially trained in effective solutions for managing the difficulties experienced in dementia. Let us work with you to ensure the highest quality care for someone 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. Email or call us any time at 919-426-7522 for more information on our expert dementia care, available throughout Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill, as well as the nearby communities.