How Bilingualism Could Reduce the Need for Alzheimer’s Care

How Bilingualism Could Reduce the Need for Alzheimer’s Care

Bilingualism is widely regarded as a uniquely valuable skill. Learning a second language can help you travel the world, explore new cultures, and improve your career. And according to a recent wave of research, bilingualism has another, previously unsuspected benefit: reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s. Multiple studies have found that bilingual individuals develop Alzheimer’s at a far lower and slower rate than monolingual individuals. How Bilingualism Could Reduce the Need for Alzheimer’s Care

These findings could reshape how Alzheimer’s care is provided to bilingual individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s. More importantly, they give Alzheimer’s care professionals a new tool for combatting the disease in at-risk individuals. Given the enormous social, emotional, and financial costs of Alzheimer’s disease — cases of which are projected to triple by the year 2050 — increased bilingualism could have a huge impact on American senior care.

Studies on Bilingualism & Alzheimer’s

For decades, researchers have touted the cognitive benefits of learning a second language. When individuals speak more than one language, they perform better on a wide range of tests designed to measure cognitive function. These include tests that measure activities unrelated to language, like the ability to sort objects based on color and shape, or the ability to avoid distractions when focusing on a given task. In study after study, bilingualism has been linked with stronger cognitive function.

When it comes to the specific relationship between bilingualism and Alzheimer’s, the research is more recent. The most important studies have all taken place in the past ten years. These studies have also been relatively small, which points to a need for more research. Even so, the early findings from these studies are overwhelmingly positive from the perspective of Alzheimer’s care and prevention.

  • A 2010 study from York University in Toronto found that bilingual individuals developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s 5.1 years later than monolingual individuals.
  • A 2011 study conducted at the University of California, San Diego, found that the more fluent a person was in both Spanish and English, the later that person developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A 2017 study of German and Italian speakers, conducted at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, found that bilingual study subjects developed Alzheimer’s disease 4.5 years later than those that only spoke one language. Individuals who switched languages most frequently showed the strongest benefits.

Bilingualism and Alzheimer’s Care

Now that we’re aware of the link between bilingualism and Alzheimer’s, how can we use this information to improve Alzheimer’s care? And how should we apply this information to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease in future generations?

While existing research has focused on Alzheimer’s prevention, these findings could impact the way that caregivers approach Alzheimer’s care for bilingual individuals. If bilingualism can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, it may also slow the development of the disease. Bilingual individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s may benefit from Alzheimer’s care programs that encourage bilingual activities.

Family caregivers who also speak two languages could switch back and forth between these languages at home. Caregivers can encourage a mix of media — TV shows, music, reading materials, etc. — in both languages. When hiring Alzheimer’s care services, families may choose to seek out caregivers who are themselves bilingual.

Do you require Alzheimer’s care services for a loved one? To find Alzheimer’s care in your area, contact Visiting Angels® at 800-365-4189 today or connect directly with your local office.

How Bilingualism Could Reduce the Need for Alzheimer’s Care

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Richard Bitner

Visiting Angels is a national, private duty network of senior care agencies. We are proud to be the nation’s leading provider of non-medical at home care services. With our elder care services, seniors can remain independent and live safely at home. Our senior care services include Social Care, Dementia Care, Alzheimer’s Care, End of Life Care, Companion Care, Private Duty Care, care to prevent hospital readmission, and so much more.

Compassionate, dignified at home senior care is close to home when you connect with your local Visiting Angels office by calling 800-365-4189.

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Richard Bitner
Visiting Angels

Visiting Angels is a national, private duty network of senior care agencies. We are proud to be the nation’s leading provider of non-medical at home care services. With our elder care services, seniors can remain independent and live safely at home. Our senior care services include Social Care, Dementia Care, Alzheimer’s Care, End of Life Care, Companion Care, Private Duty Care, care to prevent hospital readmission, and so much more. Compassionate, dignified at home senior care is close to home when you connect with your local Visiting Angels office by calling 800-365-4189.

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