Should I teach my mother sign language to keep her communicating with me?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 11, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is in the moderate to severe stage of Alzheimer's. She has a difficult time completing a sentence and sometimes she says hot instead of cold or doesn't know how to ask for something because she can't come up with the words. I am wondering if sign language would be a good idea to start teaching her or if it is too late? We could teach her the basics like drink, full, hot, ect?? What are your thoughts on this? Thank you.


Expert Answers

Ladislav Volicer, M.D., Ph.D., is recognized as an international expert on advanced dementia care. He is a courtesy full professor at the School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, and visiting professor at the Third Medical Faculty, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. Twenty-five years ago, he established one of the first dementia special care units.

I have never heard of a sign language being useful in Alzheimer's disease. The problem is that the person with dementia has impaired memory so she would not be able to remember the meaning of the signs. However, you might be able to communicate non-verbally with your mother using common gesture, e.g., pretending to drink from a cup and pointing to her.


Community Answers

Jweaver7907 answered...

I disagree with the physician that your mother "would not be able remember the meaning of the signs," studies have shown that learning a new language improve memory by stimulating neurogenesis. Although it will not reverse the symptoms, I believe ASL would provide a means of communication to compensate for hearing/speech barriers. You can contact local senior centers for information about "Signing for Seniors" workshops.