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Dementia: Repetitive Speech, Looping, and Same Story Syndrome

Have you ever had the experience of an elderly loved one telling the same story over and over? When it comes to dementia, repetitive speech is quite common and can result in same story syndrome or dementia looping. But what does it mean when a person keeps repeating themselves? And what is the best way to respond? In this post, we will review what you should know about repetitive speech, looping, and same story syndrome.

Is Repetition A Sign of Dementia?

Do dementia patients repeat themselves and should this be a sign of concern if so? Due to memory loss and behavior changes, dementia and repeating often go hand in hand. In addition to repeating conversations, dementia patients can also repeat tasks such as bathing or obsessively collecting items.

Why Do People Repeat Themselves?

There are a variety of reasons why dementia patients repeat themselves. These include:

  • Short-term memory impairment

  • Anxiety, discomfort, fear, frustration, and stress

  • Being unsure of where they are or the time of day

  • Inability to properly express their needs due to discomfort

  • Wanting to communicate and not finding anything else to say

  • Expressing a need for information or an emotional need

  • Being bored or under-occupied

  • Being stuck on a particular word, phrase, or action

How To Respond To People Who Repeat Themselves

Dealing with people that repeat themselves can be tiresome but it is always best to practice empathy. Below are some ways you can respond to people who repeat themselves.

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  • Respond to the emotions rather than the words. They may be repeating themselves due to anxiety or frustration. Give them a reassuring hug or hand squeeze to help soothe them as you listen to their concerns.

  • Validate their feelings. If the person says the sky is green, what does it hurt to agree with them? Practicing the validation method can make your elderly loved one feel understood. Of course, you do not want to shrug off everything. For example, if your loved one says they need to take their medication, do not simply give it to them if they already took it a half-hour before.

  • Distract their repetitive thoughts. If dementia looping is harmful to the individual, it can be best to distract them from the thought. Try changing the topic of the conversation and refer to their children, grandchildren, or happy memories to get them out of the loop.

  • Redirect their repetitive thoughts. Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t effective and you will need to place their attention on a different activity. This can include chores, crafts, watching TV, listening to music, or looking at old photo albums. For the latter activity, you definitely want to focus on older photos. Dementia patients often have short-term memory and looking at more recent memories can be upsetting if they do not remember them.

Practice self-care. Keeping your cool can be hard if you’ve heard the same story for the 10th time. Get some fresh air, take a warm bath, or practice some calming exercises to make you better equipped to care for your loved one.

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