Television News and Peace of Mind

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I walked into Mom’s room early one evening and found her in bed, ready for an evening’s rest. She stirred and saw me, pleased that I had come for a visit. “I’m happy to see you, but you may not want to stay long. I’m concerned for your safety,” she said.

    I pulled a chair over and sat close to Mom. “Why are you concerned about my safety?” I asked. She said, “Can’t you hear that?” I replied that all I heard was the rattle of the oxygen concentrator by the side of her bed. Turning off the oxygen concentrator was not an option since her lung function continues to decrease.

    After changing the topic of our conversation, I continued to wonder about what had prompted Mom’s concern about my safety. A day later, I was talking to my friend, Anna, and we agreed that the probable cause was television news, which lately had been devoted to the Middle East situation (especially the war between Israel and Lebanon). Anna (who has been the caregiver for her own mother, as well as two elderly neighbors) agreed with my assessment that Mom probably was seated in the retirement community’s common area where there is a large television during a time when the news was on. Her short term memory limits her ability to recall the actual war; instead, she focuses on the sense of danger.
    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    I’d already experienced this situation once before during an afternoon visit with Mom in early January. As part of her greeting, Mom said, “If you had come any earlier, you could have seen me become a crispy critter.” I looked quizzically at my mother, and asked her what she meant. She pointed to the courtyard that was right outside the secure unit. “They had a fire out there this afternoon,” she said. Realizing that I didn’t see anything singed outside, I looked at the nurse’s aide who was sitting with another resident and who overheard my mom’s comment. The aide shook her head to indicate that there had not been a fire.

    Later that afternoon, I put two and two together. In January, there were raging grass fires in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle; this story was one of the lead stories on the news. Mom may have become further confused since she is never sure about the city where she currently lives; for a significant portion of her adult life, she has lived in West Texas. So in Mom’s mind, these grassfires fires weren’t 400 miles away; instead, they were literally right outside her door.

    Being trained in journalism, I have a sincere appreciation for the role that news plays in our world. However, as a caretaker of a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease, I now have a different understanding about the impact that news (especially television news) can have. My mom’s short term memory is so limited that she can not remember the actual story; instead, she absorbs the emotion that comes with the story. That emotion becomes her reality. My new tenet is that being well informed in today’s world is important; however, providing loving care to a person with Alzheimer’s Disease may mean that to help that person keep peace of mind, he or she does not need to be constantly exposed to the televised pictures of today’s world.

  • Find more caregiving tips and resources in the Caregiver Center.
    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:
Published On: July 25, 2006