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Should You Be Concerned When an Elderly Person Talks to Themselves?

Should You Be Concerned When an Elderly Person Talks to Themselves?

When you see an elderly loved one talking to themselves or mumbling around the house, you might become concerned. But, in some cases, it could be perfectly normal. At other times, it's not. Learn about the warning signs and red flags.
Concerned When An Elderly Person Talks To Themselves
Concerned When An Elderly Person Talks To Themselves
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If you are a caregiver to an elderly loved one – a parent, in-law, or grandparent, perhaps- you might have heard them talking to themselves at some point.

While it is normal to be alarmed at first, there are certain signs that will let you know if this situation is something you should be worried about.

It is a universal truth that certain diseases are more common in elderly patients. Neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are especially worrying for most people.

So, it is perfectly understandable if you are concerned the first time you hear your loved one talking to themselves.

However, in many cases, an elderly person talking to themselves can be perfectly normal.

Since every case is so different, the first thing you should do is keep an eye out for any changes in your loved one’s daily routine, mood, habits, and activities.

As a starting point, this should give you enough information to realize when something has changed, so that you can discuss any new findings with your loved one’s doctor.

When Is It Normal?

Some people have talked to themselves their entire life as a way of “thinking out loud”. If your loved one is one of these people and they have been talking to themselves when alone for a long time, then there is likely nothing to worry about.

If your loved one is suffering from some degree of hearing impairment, they might be talking to themselves louder than usual because it’s more difficult for them to hear their own voice than it used to be.

Make sure to talk to your loved one and ask them if this is a habit they have always had.

But, keep in mind that they might be a little bit embarrassed at first, since talking to oneself does carry some stigma and it is likely that they won’t want you to worry about them. Reassure them that you will not judge them or ask them to stop.

As long as this is an old habit and your loved one isn’t displaying any other sign of cognitive impairment, such as forgetfulness, confusion, mood changes, or irritability, you shouldn’t worry too much about it.

However, whenever you are caring for a senior, you should always make sure to be aware of any cognitive changes your loved one develops, since they can develop degenerative conditions as time goes by.

When Should You Worry?

In some cases, an elderly talking to themselves can be a sign of an underlying illness. Neurodegenerative diseases are more common in senior patients and their early symptoms can go unnoticed if you don’t keep an eye out for them.


Dementia isn’t one specific illness; instead, it’s a term used to categorize multiple illnesses which cause cognitive impairment. It is one of the leading causes of disability in seniors and it has an enormous impact on the lives of patients and their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common causes of dementia, making up 50% to 70% of all cases. Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t have a cure but certain treatments can increase patients’ quality of life and slow the progression of symptoms, which is why it’s so important to diagnose it in its early stages.

Other causes of dementia include vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and frontotemporal dementia.

Red Flags to be Concerned About

The elderly talking to themselves can be a symptom of the cognitive impairment caused by dementia and it should be considered a red flag if:

  • The person didn’t use to talk to themselves and instead, only started doing it recently.
  • They don’t realize that they are talking to themselves.
  • They talk to their own image or reflection without realizing who it is.
  • They talk to themselves whilst in the company of other people.
  • They believe they are having a conversation with someone else.
  • They act as if there is something or someone in the room with them, i.e. hallucinations.
  • There are other changes in their personality or behaviour, such as memory problems, irritability, aggression, confusion, sad or lethargic mood, etc.
elderly woman grieving by crying in her handsPin

Could Grief Be a Possibility?

Sometimes, an elderly individual might start talking to themselves as a way to cope with grief after a loss –for example, that of a partner.

In these cases, they aren’t really talking to themselves; instead, they are trying to maintain the habit of talking to the loved one they have lost.

If you notice your loved one does this after going through a loss, and there are no other changes to their behavior or personality, this could be the reason.

If, in addition to talking to themselves, they become apathetic and lose interest in the things they usually enjoyed, consider a visit to the doctor torule out depression, which is another common ailment in the elderly.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the elderly talking to themselves can have a myriad of causes and you should always try to talk to your loved one to understand what they are going through.

Know their personality, quirks, and habits so that you can recognize the early symptoms of any disease and make sure they receive the appropriate treatment and are comfortable in their surroundings.

Having a loving, understanding, and warm environment can make a world of difference when caring for a senior.

Make sure your loved one feels cared for, understood, and autonomous; this will help you maintain a communicative and trusting relationship.

This will be extremely helpful when you need to start a new treatment, therapy, or make changes to your environment or routine in order to uphold their quality of life and comfort.

How have you dealt with a senior loved one talking to themselves? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

With over 20 years of experience and certifications as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® and Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®, Scott Grant provides reliable recommendations to help seniors maintain independence through informed product and service choices for safe, comfortable living.

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20 thoughts on “Should You Be Concerned When an Elderly Person Talks to Themselves?”

  1. Marcus

    What about when the elderly person has become increasingly aggressive and is hostile to anyone who tries to talk about their concerns? It becomes a barrier when trying to help.

    • Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

      Hey Marcus – this is indeed a rough situation. I am not a psychologist but experienced this in my own family. Is there anyone in the family the elderly person will listen to? In my family, my grandmother would listen to my suggestions (whether she would do it or not) but not other members of the family. So, I became the middle man when she needed to be told something. Here are some more tips that could help:
      Best of luck in this difficult situation

  2. Dalton santos Dasilva

    how about when a elderly talking themselves, thinking that is a person that wanna her money, her dog, her house. everyday put some food to a imaginary person that come every night to pickup, start keep a baseball bat next to her, because she think that is a person that is gonna come to kill her dog or her. or take her money. and she start forget things. like where is the phone, after lost the phone, she say that somebody got the phone, someone stole it, some time she wanna call the police. we should worry about it???

    • Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

      Yes, these are some behaviors I would be concerned about. I discuss this with her doctor as soon as possible.

    • Shamira Kinchen

      I’m going through the same thing now with my grandma. An its so scary.

  3. Dorena

    What happens when my mom who is elderly and is active through the day but talk to her self through the night and keeps me up all night? Please I can’t get no help for her, this is new to me .

    • Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

      Hi Dorena – This could be what is called Sundowner’s or Sundowning Syndrome and could be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Could just be insomnia which many seniors suffer from too. This behavior warrants a visit to her doctor I believe.

    • Todd Kranz

      I just go on my room and shut the door when my mom gets angry oh and she gets angry and hates everything.then she will talk to herself and ask lots of questions..I think my mom has flipped.she still cooks and drives her little car.but I don’t know what to do..she don’t listen to anything I have to with that she will do what she does..she is a grown women and I’m about to move…I can’t take this..I mean I wasn’t the best son but she knows I wasn’ she can be all by herself.I’m gone I can’t live like this.bye mom good luck

  4. My grandfather has been calling my own mother his mother, thinking she is in the house and when my mom says she is not is starting to question her and himself as well. Today he also starting to have a full-on conversation with “her” as if she is in his bedroom (talking to her and then responding like she answered his first thought). Then, when my mother went in the room she said he wanted to cry but didn’t. Can this be a sign he has some degree of Alzheimer’s? If so, which degree is it starting to be?

    • Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

      Hi Ame – based on my personal experience, this is troubling behavior. I think your concerns are justified. I would schedule an appointment with his primary care doctor asap. If you are afraid he won’t go, just make a follow-up appointment and let the nurse know your concerns before you get there so the doctor is “pre-warned” and can help you navigate the situation. Good Luck!

    • Concerned daughter in law

      I have noticed recently that my mother in law is talking to someone but there is no one with her so i am not sure if she is talking to herself or thinking out loud. She has hearing aids also. But next time I am going to try listen what she is actually saying to determine what it is she is doing. Will just be observing

  5. Christa Lockyer

    My mum started talking to herself about a year ago and is doing it more and more. She talks about me like I am not there ( in an irritable tone). She has been deaf in one ear for a year and suffers back and hip pain severely on a daily basis. Mum is on lots of meds daily which include morphine. The talking is constant and I find that I look forward to when she goes out so I can have peace.
    Does this sound like something to worry about?

    • Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

      Hi Christa – From my own personal family experiences, morphine will often make people exhibit behaviors like this. I would discuss this with her physician to be safe though. There are definitely some concerning behaviors especially if these are “new” behaviors.

  6. When my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness, my dad started to talk to himself but it’s only after my mom passed away early last year, he has been talking to himself more frequently. Once he seemed to realize I’m somewhere within the vicinity, he stopped. He is also beginning to suffer some hearing problems and experiencing forgetfulness. I have yet to take any action on these issues. I’m unsure of how to approach him to tell him about them. Thanks!

  7. Kareema nill

    Hi! I certainly think that my mother has a problem talking to herself and it bothers me. I cannot put up with it. She can talk to herself for hours she will mumble out loud so I can her like I’m not there. Like we will argue after having a conversation about something that she doesn’t agree with. If she’s upset about something I said she will continue on with the conversation to her own self. . A it’s disturbing to me because it’s things she brings up about the past ten or twenty years ago. She wants to argue about that. I tell her nobody wants to her this stuff everyday about ten years ago. She will talk for hours and hours non stop. What does this mean?

  8. Anna

    My mom has recently started to talk very loud when she takes bath. She always has a habit to murmur to herself. But talking in the bathroom has become very loud and she is scolding someone. What does this mean?

  9. Anita Sarkar

    My father has started talking to himself of late. Earlier my mother used to self talk. I lost my mother 4 years back. I am concerned about my father currently. I will talk to his doctor. Due to the covid situation it is becoming difficult to take him out for consultation. I am not sure whether tele medicines will work out or not. But what I found assuring from the posts is that self talking happens in other households too.

  10. Kathy DeOcampo

    HI I have noticed a change in my mom for weeks now, Occasionally she would talk to herself but I walked in on her and she was having a full conversation I think directed to me. She just sits in her apartment all day. She lives in a senior apartment building but has withdrawn from going to Coffee Gatherings every Friday, not doing her laundry, – I told the doctor all of this and went for blood work and urinalysis and everthing came back normal- Next is an MRI

  11. Barbara

    I’m going threw this also is there anyway to stop this . Keeps me up all night.

  12. Cheryl

    My sister-in-law talks to herself non-stop! She recently started living with us. This is the most challenging thing having her here. She seems to have serious cognitive decline, her eye sight seems to be off, she can’t feed herself, her depth perception is off, and her walking is declining. And she will repeat words and incorporate them in one of her conversations.

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