Television Caregiving, Is This Okay?
Last updated: September 2023
I remember when my children were very young. One of my constant concerns was centered around the idea of keeping them entertained so that I could accomplish what I needed to do. Maybe I needed to study or do some work. Maybe I needed to clean house or do dishes. I just wanted my children to be safe and content.
I probably took the easy way out. I put them in front of the television, and gave them snacks to pass the time. I wish I had done other things differently, honestly, but that seemed to be my best option at the time.
As with my kids, now my loved one
Now, I feel the same dilemma. I cannot afford to sit with my loved one all the time and try to keep her engaged. I don't have that option. I want her to be safe and content in the same way I did for my children. I find myself sitting her down in front of the television and giving her snacks.
What used to be Blues Clues is now Perry Mason. Cartoons have been replaced by westerns. Huge picture tube televisions have been replaced by digital flatscreens. With all the changes, I am wondering if I am doing the best thing.
Beginning to wonder
Most of my loved one's shows are familiar to her. These are shows that she has always loved. Most are in black and white and have strong family values. Many are crime dramas with very predictable outcomes and storylines. She even now watches modern love stories with just as predictable storytelling.
This all has seemed fine, yet lately I am starting to wonder.
Blurring the lines
When my children were little I protected them from storylines that were scary and ones that their underdeveloped minds could not handle. I didn't want them to have nightmares and be traumatized.
Now, I am beginning to wonder if I need to be concerned about those same issues with my loved one. Are these crime dramas traumatizing for her? Is this causing problems in her mind?
One thing I have noticed lately that concerns me is that my loved one may not fully understand that television shows are not real.
They are not based in actual events that are currently happening around her. I am starting to wonder if there is a blurring of reality and drama. I am getting concerned that she cannot tell the difference.
Is this affecting my loved one?
Raymond Burr and Angela Lansbury had their own shows where they solved crimes in very tame ways by today's standards. Very little violence was portrayed, but there were always people doing bad things. There was always criminal activity. People were always being hurt, and I am concerned that this will affect my loved one in a negative way.
My concerns led me to change channels that focused more on love stories. This makes me feel better in some ways, but I am still getting questions that lead me to believe that my loved one does not always understand that these are scripted shows and not real.
Do you use television as a tool to distract your loved one so that you can get things done?
Most storylines have some sort of conflict and reconciliation. They play on the anxiety of what may or may not happen between 2 people. Sometimes my loved one cannot process that storytelling formula either.
I realize that it would be better to more actively engage my loved one with books, conversation, walks, day trips, and so on, but what about those days I cannot do this? Do I turn off the television altogether? What are your thoughts?
Do you think businesses can better accommodate individuals living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers?