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Sudden Babbling or Nonsense Sounds
Posted: Friday, May 13, 2022 12:14 AM
Joined: 9/11/2020
Posts: 180

Just wondering if others see times where there LO was fine just talking along with you and then suddenly words get stuck on repeat and they start making sounds or saying things that are just nonsense?

This is the kind of thing that really throws us for a loop.  It's hard to get my son with EO out of that mode once it starts.  Sometimes we can completely disrupt it by immediately changing room or position or activity.   It may last for 5 minutes at a time and it does get unnerving.

Posted: Friday, May 13, 2022 11:00 AM
Joined: 3/6/2017
Posts: 3539


My dad, whose speech was amazing for a PWD (per a SLP) right up until he died, used to subvocalize. These were sometimes sounds like humming or a loud intake of breath but sometimes they were nonsense words. To me, specific to my dad, I felt like this behavior was often a kind of stim (as a person with autism might) and other times was sometimes an attention seeking behavior.

An example of the latter was once I was visiting my mom in her kitchen while dad was in his usual spot on the sofa. I'd already said hello and chatted a bit and he could see me even though I was probably 25-30' away so he knew I was engaged with his preferred person. He started making a sound like "uh-oh" on repeat; I timed it. He made the sound every 30 seconds while my mom and I were talking. I said good-bye before I left and he stopped before I made it out of the driveway according to my mom.

Posted: Friday, May 13, 2022 3:09 PM
Joined: 6/12/2016
Posts: 2344

Hi Cobalt, I'm sorry this is happening and I hope you find a way to cut it short. My mom  went through a period of repeating catch phrases from popular TV shows and commercials. The worse was Shoot Em! Shoot Em! from Swamp People. It drove us crazy! Then she moved on to making animal sounds. Barking, clucking and meowing were a few of her favorites. She would do this on the phone a lot. I thought it was because she couldn't think of anything else to say. She was usually in a good mood when she did it.
Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2022 4:30 PM
Joined: 7/3/2019
Posts: 30

The tone of the previous posts seems rather negative. Apparently, the sounds your PWD is making when on the phone, or the repetition of certain phrases, are infuriating and exasperating for you. I hope you will eventually realize that such eccentric noises or seemingly illogical phrasing/nonsensical words are just indications that your loved one’s brain is shutting down, and there is no cure. Perhaps try to reframe your thinking and feel grateful that at least your PWD is trying to communicate with you and seems comfortable and/or content doing so. 

If you stop expecting your loved one to make sense, you can then respond in any illogical way yourself! Just saying “Really?”,  That is great!” or “You are great!” can make your PWD feel validated and appreciated. Live in the moment, and maybe you will eventually laugh (or even repeat a slogan from a TV show!) Just let go of your ego and any expectation of having any meaningful conversation with your PWD as the disease progresses. These days, if my wife starts vocalizing nonsense words, I just repeat them—and if she smiles, that makes my day—or moment. She spent years in publishing and editing, and now she has no ability to retrieve the right words. She’s been in decline for seven years now and is well into Stage 6. I hope you will do yourself and your PWD a favor and not let their eccentricities “drive you crazy” as one poster said. Your PWD is no longer be in control of their emotions. Perhaps someday soon, you’ll be able to replace resentment and frustration to acceptance and unconditional love. Hugs and hope for us all, Josh 

Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2022 5:14 PM
Joined: 10/24/2018
Posts: 1480

Cobalt, first-- I don't come here often these days, but I think of you often! Can you tell if he's distressed when language bogs down like this? My mom had a period where she'd do  a somewhat similar  thing, and it was very clear (to me anyway) that she was lost in a soup of words, looking desperately for the right one to express her thought, which she seemed to know would be gone from her brain in 5 seconds anyway. Sometimes I could find the word fast enough for her, sometimes not. During this period these moments would frustrate her, and I'd have to turn the subject. 

Or-- could it be a kind of seizure? 

A resident at Mom's MC talked like that all the time-- to himself and in "conversation". He was very expressive with it, but just nonsense sounds in a stuttering kind of pattern. I always wondered if in his mind he was actually making sense-- he certainly had good receptive language. 

May flowers
Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2022 10:18 PM
Joined: 4/9/2021
Posts: 333

We haven’t had the repetition in a long time, but after starting a certain med, my FIL is trying desperately to talk to us, but it is all word salad. We take cues from the context - if he laughs after he says something we laugh too, if he seems distressed we commiserate and say we’re sorry to hear that. If he seems urgent we say we will do what we can to help. I thought the absence of communication was tough, but this new phase of trying to decipher what he is trying to say is so hard, especially when he seems anxious. 

Then there are times he seems super upset about something and then giggles and we just look at each other and throw our hands up. 

I do know that he always loves to be hugged, whether he’s being funny or upset. 

Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2022 4:46 AM
Joined: 3/6/2017
Posts: 3539

abc123 wrote:
Hi Cobalt, I'm sorry this is happening and I hope you find a way to cut it short. My mom  went through a period of repeating catch phrases from popular TV shows and commercials. The worse was Shoot Em! Shoot Em! from Swamp People. It drove us crazy! 

This is called echolalia and is another one of those language quirks many people with autism exhibit. Neurotypical folks do it too, "where's the beef?", "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse", etc, but not to the same degree. Sometimes this behavior is stim-like and something the person gets some kind of pleasure out of it. Some people even use repeated phrases in the context of "conversation" more or less appropriately in what is called functional echolalia. 

When a person repeats some of their own spontaneous speech- typically the last part of a phrase- that's palilalia. 


It's great that you can embrace your LO where she is at. That's a gift. I found reading-- and re-reading-- Understanding the Dementia Experience helpful for making me more empathetic as a caregiver. I don't think that being irked, annoyed or exhausted by behaviors associated with brain dysfunction or reaching out here for support or commiseration necessarily translates into the PWD not being loved and respected. 


Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2022 4:13 PM
Joined: 9/11/2020
Posts: 180

Grateful for the replies here!  I know I am "supposed" to feel good that my son is communicating at all and I worry for his future if it comes about there is no more verbal communication.  That too would be very hard for all of us to live with.

We are in a stage right now that he is also frequently bringing up obsessive topics and phrases, including "I didn't know 3-toed sloths were real!" and "when did Arizona vote on Daylight Savings Time!" Like about 6-10 times a day for each.  Whoa.  The Alzheimer's doctor says he's been stuck in memories that were vivid to him when he was about 10-12 years old.  So apparently he was quite cued in to things like dinosaurs and was struck by the time zone changes back in Iowa in the 80's.  But we've lived in Arizona now 18 years, soooo...

Have been recently dealing with tantrums too, as in suddenly a behavior comes on strong when he doesn't want to do something that we are clearly going to do and need to do.  A couple times a day he's refusing regular meds, and he got out of his home exercise of walking with his walker because the caregiver gave in.  By tantrum, an example is bending over as far as he can while seated in his chair, with his head down below his knees and refusing to respond.  Eeek.

I guess I should be feeling ok that we are seeing glimpses of his future.  But it's hard to reconcile that he will undoubtedly get "worse" over time.

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