Is interrupting others a symptom of dementia?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband has Dementia.He interupes me a lot when i'm he's thinking when i talk he's suppose to talk.Is that the dementia?If so,,,why does that happen? How can i handle that the right way? Thank you,,,,Martha

Expert Answer

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

Having conversations with the give and take is often difficult for persons with dementia. Either they are unable to follow the flow of the discussion and may respond incorrectly or they withdraw and become very quiet. At other times they may repeat what another is saying (called echoalia. Your husband may be doing the latter - repeating what you are saying- or he may be looking for attention. Interrupting and dementia are not necesarily related except in the sense that dementia also alters ones social skills. Therefore, before his dementia, he would have listened and responded but now he is unable to perform these functions appropriately in social situations.

You have many options for managing this behavior but it is important you first try to identify why he is interrupting. Has his dementia progressed to a more advanced stage where he is just echoing? Is he looking for attention? Are you able to divert him when he interrupts? Can you give him something to occupy his attention when you are speaking to someone else? Can you include him in the conversation so as not to make him feel left out? The 'right way' as you mention is to always stay aware of what he is experiencing ('empathy') and try to help him maintain his self esteem and dignity.