Should Dementia Patients Watch TV?

While researchers caution that watching too much TV (more than 3.5 hours a day) can be detrimental to patients with dementia, TV time is still important for these seniors.

You just need to be careful about what they are watching, make it easier for them to find what they want to watch and make sure they are not stuck in front of the TV all day long.

Benefits of Watching TV for Dementia Patients

1. It reduces loneliness

The elderly are the loneliest age group in the UK, with more than two million seniors living alone.

Watching TV won’t completely prevent loneliness but it can greatly reduce it. Watching news and other events on TV can provide a sense of belonging and connect them to the world.

2. It’s entertaining

Seniors need entertainment too and TV is one of the best sources of entertainment. It is also one of the easiest and cheapest to access.

Watching TV shows, movies, interviews and documentaries fill gaps between other activities.

You just need to make sure that it doesn’t turn into all-day binge watching.

It’s also important that you help them find the right content to watch. Some content can be scary, confusing or annoying. I’ll explain this further shortly.

3. It can become a social activity

If you are worried that watching TV alone for hours will worsen their loneliness, why not get a friend or neighbour to watch with them.

Seniors can bond well over a movie or documentary. If it is a daily TV show or soap, it can become an opportunity to socialize with someone regularly.

Choosing the Right Content

Seniors have just as much right as anyone else to watch whatever they wish, be it a horror movie or an action flick.

But for seniors with dementia, you have to take a bit of control.

Certain types of content can be problematic. Movies with loud noises or shouting can be jarring. News depicting war in a faraway region can make them think it is nearby, causing fright.

Drama shows with complicated plot lines can be hard to follow, making watching TV frustrating.

In some cases, dementia patients can find the difference between fiction and reality confusing.

So you have to be careful about what they watch.

Find out what they love watching and make it easy to access. You can set specific channels as favourites and configure the TV such that these are the only channels they can access.

Another option is to buy DVDs made specifically for seniors with dementia. These provide relaxing content such as nature shows and music.

With these you don’t have to worry that they will stumble into an unpleasant channel.

Alternatively, put on senior-friendly Netflix shows. Netflix has a wide selection of comedies, dramas and documentaries that older people will love.

Get a Universal Remote Control

You may not think much about it but the remote control can seriously affect their TV experience.

Most TVs come with long remote controls full of tiny buttons that are hard to see and operate.

Switch to a universal remote control designed specifically for seniors. You just need to copy functions from the old remote control to the new one and it’s ready to use.

With most universal remote controls, you can control multiple devices like the TV, stereo and set top box with one remote control. This eliminates the need for having separate remote controls for different devices.

Limit TV Time

There are several reasons why binge-watching TV for hours is bad for dementia patients, and all seniors as well.

  • It is bad for their fitness. Sitting on a chair all day can lead to weaker muscles, oedema and worsening mobility. It also increases the risk for heart disease and other health problems. Make sure they get some active time whether it’s walking, yoga or any other safe exercise.
  • It can worsen memory loss and dementia. New research shows that watching TV for more than 3.5 hours a day can lead to or accelerate dementia.
  • It can worsen loneliness and isolation. A couple of hours of TV time is entertaining and can help reduce isolation. But 4 or 5 hours can starve one of opportunities to go out and socialise.

The most important thing is to balance TV time with other activities.

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