Basketball, March Madness and Alzheimer's: Finding a Common Language

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Sometimes you just need to figure out what your loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease likes and then just be present while they do it. For instance, this is the time of year that March Madness of the NCAA men’s basketball finals consumes everyone. Thanks to Mom’s long love affair with basketball, we’ve found that sitting with Mom in the afternoons and over the weekends to watch basketball keeps her attention and gives us an opportunity to spend time with her in a meaningful way.

    Mom used to play basketball as a girl and then coached girls’ basketball when she worked in a high school. Ever since, she has remained a basketball fan. She used to trek many miles to watch me when I played the sport at the high school and college level, screaming at the top of her lungs to tell me to play defense or to celebrate a basket. In recent years, Mom has enjoyed working with me on making bracket picks for a tournament pool in which we participated. The deal was that Mom would make the picks (since she had time to scout the teams on television) and I’d fork over the $10 for participation in the pool.

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    So it’s no surprise that now when we turn the TV on to the NCAA tournament games, Mom quickly becomes engrossed. She may not be able to distinguish anymore how her beloved Duke Blue Devils or Texas Tech Raiders are doing, but she does intently follow each game as the players move up and down the court.

    Mom displays interest when I tell her how the Texas Longhorns did or that the Texas A&M Aggies made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Dad’s learned that sitting and watching basketball with Mom is an easy way to be with her without being taken aback by a disjointed and confused conversation. We’ve learned that Mom may not be able to talk in-depth about these basketball games, but at least we can communicate during March in a language that Mom knows and understands - basketball.

Published On: March 26, 2007