Keeping someone with dementia meaningfully occupied and stimulated can prove challenging at times, never more so than during this current period of isolation. Watching television is one of those activities that can happily fill a lull in the day and provide both the person with dementia and their caregiver a moment to catch their breath, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You want to keep as much of the life of a dementia sufferer the same as it’s always been and for many people this includes watching television during their free time. However, a little thought should be put into what is being viewed and when. Television should be monitored as some programme content can lead to agitation and this can have a troubling outcome. You don’t want to cause someone with dementia unnecessary anxiety as this can often lead to a heightened state of fear that in turn could lead to depression, tantrum like behaviour, nightmares and interrupted sleep.
Differentiating between fact and fiction may become difficult for someone with dementia, particularly as the condition progresses. Think about what is being watched and how that may be interpreted, does the viewer really understand that what they are seeing is ‘made up’, that the film about World War 2 does not mean there is a war going on in the present, that the storm on the screen does not mean that there is a storm blowing outside. Watching the news can become confusing and distressing, a person with dementia may not understand that a crime or natural disaster on the news has not happened to someone they care about, to their neighbour or even to them, nor that a war being reported is not happening where they are rather than a continent away. Even something as relatively benign as a drama or soap opera that contains people arguing or loud dramatic background music can negatively affect individuals with dementia. As cognitive abilities become more limited, it is important to keep an eye on what is being viewed. Instead of free reign with the remote control, you may consider providing DVDs.
There are DVDs made specifically for people with dementia have a look at these two alzheimer’s.org or alzproducts.co.uk Some of these include content that includes beautiful nature scenes accompanied by music and are designed to create a soothing, relaxing atmosphere. Others are created to hold the attention of person with dementia by talking to the viewer directly that may prompt reminiscing and lead to sing-a-longs and even some light exercise.