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Television viewing for individuals with dementia

Although your loved one is suffering from dementia, you want to keep as much of his or her life the same as possible. For many people, this includes watching television during their free time.

However, as your loved one’s disease progresses, you should monitor what they are watching on TV and how it is affecting them. Television shows can lead to agitation in your loved one. This anxiety can carry over into their sleeping routine and cause insomnia, night mares, and wandering.

Many of the shows on TV can be disturbing and scare a person with dementia. Even if he or she loved crime shows and watched them for years, as the dementia progresses, he or she may begin to have trouble deciphering what is real and what is fiction. Dramas too can be disturbing. Programs that have people arguing or contain loud background music can negatively affect individuals with dementia. News programs can also be frightening. A person with Alzheimer’s may believe that a war is happening in their neighborhood, instead of a continent away, or that a crime being reported in another city is in their neighborhood.

Watching TV can also prove to be a frustrating experience for a person with dementia. As their cognitive abilities become more limited, it is hard to follow the plot lines of a show and keep track of the characters’ names.

Instead of giving your loved one free reign with the remote control, you may consider monitoring what they watch by providing them with DVDs. Several product lines of DVDs made specifically for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers are available online at or Some DVDs have beautiful nature scenes accompanied by music and are designed to create a soothing, relaxing atmosphere for your loved one. Others are created to hold the attention of person with Alzheimer’s disease by talking to the viewer directly and talk about different cultures and traditions to prompt reminiscing or lead sing-a-longs and light exercise.

While your loved one is enjoying a DVD, you can take a break yourself or catch up on doing things around the house. If you know a family with an individual with Alzheimer’s disease, a DVD such as this would make a nice gift.

A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.