Is talking to mirrors a behavior of moderate Alzheimer's?

6 answers | Last updated: Sep 15, 2016
Dks??? asked...

Mom talks to herself in the mirror, she has a very hard time with communication, but she talks to the mirror all day and into the night, if I take her out in the car, she will flip the visor mirror down and talk to it. Is this normal for moderate alzheimer patients.

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

It's hard to say what normal behavior is when one has Alzheimer's, but my father used to talk to someone in the mirror, too.

He'd stand in front of the full-length mirror of the sliding closet doors and talk with his reflection. Except, he'd get irritated that the person would mimic his every move.

The same thing would happen if he stopped to look at himself in the bathroom mirror above the sink.

However, he never thought to look at himself in the visor.

As Alzheimer's causes more brain cells to die, it takes away our loved ones' judgment and ability to reason that the image in front of them is their reflection.

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If your mother's behavior is not bothersome to you and does not cause her frustration, let her talk. If she is unable to communicate unless she sees her reflection in a mirror, then this will help her to keep up her communication skill.

Perhaps you can use this opportunity to ask her questions. Who knows? Seeing her reflection may prompt some recall of the past and answer some questions that are lingering.

Once it becomes a problem you may need to either hang a sheet over the mirror or consider removing it.

When my father grew increasingly irritated at that man in the mirror, my husband removed the doors and installed them with the mirrored side facing into the closet and the back sides facing the bedroom. Although it didn't look as nice, that man in the mirror never mimicked my father again. This also seemed to resolve the issue with the bathroom mirror, which no longer posed a problem.

Community Answers

Alwysgayles answered...

I loved when my mother would talk to herself in the mirror - she thought she was either talking to her mother or her younger self - and I found out a lot about her as a younger person - especially when she was a teenager - hmmmm - did my mom have fun!

Brenda avadian answered...

That's a great point, alwysgayles. We can learn a lot about our loved ones if we slow down enough and just listen. Thank you for sharing.

Joe lucido answered...

While every Alzheimer's patient is different, and most will not do this type of behavior, talking into a mirror seems to be a definite trait among Alzheimer's patients.

We get this question quite often from a lot of our members, it seems to be that the patient does not recognize the fact that the person in the mirror is him or herself, they seem to think that the person they are staring at is someone they recognize as someone they know from their past, and holding a conversation with them most times seems to be a good thing for them, very few of the comments we get seem to be that the person they are staring at is causing them aggravation or displeasure.

Most of the comments we get are about, is this a healthy thing for them to do? When we answer our members back, we will usually tell them as long as it seems to be an activity that does not cause agitation, and it has a good or calming effect on them, then we think it is harmless activity, but on the other hand, if it is causing the patient discomfort, or is agitating them, we would encourage our members to try to put a stop to it.

The more you try to stop agitation the better, The last thing we want in our patients lives is agitation. If it makes her feel good, we believe that there is no harm in it.

Joe Lucido Director Alzheimer's Research Association

Granmommy answered...

My mother in law talks to pictures of the various family members on the wall and the mantle. It gives her joy to see them and talk with them, so at this point, we don't see anything wrong with it.

Vasundhara answered...

My mother is in advance stage of Alzheimer.Two years ago when the disease was settling in I did notice her talking to the mirror.Now I keep her room mirror times she used to be irritated as the image seemed to be immitating her.