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Can Alzheimer’s Patient Read or Watch Television?

Posted Aug 24 2010 12:45am

Someone asked me about this yesterday and I think it’s a topic that I haven’t discussed very much. Actually, most Alzheimer’s and Dementia sufferers can read and watch television as much as they ever did in the past. What’s different about their entertainment habits as their Alzheimer’s progresses is their ability to comprehend and understand what they are reading or watching.

Into Middle Stage Alzheimer’s their attention span shortens, a memory is only held for a few minutes. So Reading or watching television can become confusing. They might read a paragraph, then look away for a minute and forget what they just read. There is no more learning, or holding onto memories. They disappear shortly after happening. If an Alzheimer’s or Dementia sufferer was watching a movie, during the first commercial-break they would forget all they had already seen. So the film would seem disjointed, making little sense to them.

My Mom was an avid reader and read well into Middle Stage Alzheimer’s. I actually noticed her reading when I was certain she could not remember what she was reading. Part of it, I believe, was the actual habit of reading. When I suspected that she was not remembering what she read, I watched her one afternoon. She sat and read the same page for a couple hours. Still, she may have been reading the same text over and over. I’m just not certain, but she was content to sit there with the book in her hands and read the pages.

Mom loved Crossword Puzzles and Word Find puzzles also. By the time she entered the nursing home (late middle stage Alzheimer’s) she could no longer do Crossword Puzzles but she still did Word Find Puzzle Books for many months after entering the nursing home.

My Mom was never too keen on television. But for as long as I can remember, if Bob Barker and “The Price Is Right” was on during the day, she watched it. It had been her Favorite show for many years, and Bob Barker and “The Truth or Consequences” was her Favorite before that. When she came to live with us (Early Middle Stage) she couldn’t follow a movie or series television. During the time it took to show the commercial advertising, Mom would forget the plot of the show. So she took no interest in that sort of television.  There are many Television shows that they can watch and enjoy though.

  • Music and Comedy Shows without a plot line
  • Music Videos (Mom was a fan of the Nashville Network)
  • News Shows for a limited time (When they hear the same news story more than once, it becomes confusing)

A few other Activities they might enjoy:

  • Coloring Books
  • Stringing Beads
  • Rolling Yarn
  • Folding clothes, especially towels
  • Word Find books
  • Mom use to keep a folder with old bank statements/She felt in-control of her finances and carried them in her purse
  • If you have pictures that need to be sorted/Envelopes or mail that needs to be sorted
  • They love activities that keep their hands busy

I hope this helps with a little understanding of their ability to watch television or read a book. If you have any thoughts you’d like to ad or questions to askFeel free to comment.

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