Don't Let Those With Dementia Watch the News!

Jacqueline Marcell Health Guide
  • I live in Southern California, so I have been obsessively watching the news about all the terrible fires we are having - showing on every channel. I am not in danger (yet), but the smoke is so bad I can't even open a window, and I am glad I don't have to go anywhere. I have been worried about several friends who are evacuating, so last night I fell asleep with the television on hoping to hear better news.


    Amazingly, my brain incorporated many of the news stories into the most complicated vivid dreams about my own home being threatened and then engulfed in flames as I struggled to gather important papers and get out. Fortunately, I awoke in a panic and was relieved to be safe. Then I marveled at the unbelievable ability of our minds to put such elaborate scenarios together.

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    Then I got sad, thinking about all the demented elders who were also watching the news and incorporating the horrors into their realities - but they wouldn't be able to wake up from it. I wanted to call all the news stations and beg them to announce that families shouldn't let their little children and their elders with dementia watch the news!


    I know it's true, because it happened so many times with my parents, both with early Alzheimer's. Oftentimes whatever they were watching on television would get incorporated in their stories later. I remember one time after we watched a Clark Gable movie, they came home from Day Care the next day beaming with pride saying that my father had just gotten a part-time job taking care of Clark Gable's horses. Mom added with glee, "Yes honey, and we have to go shopping for hay!" It was very cute.


    Unfortunately, I watched the horrors on television during the week of 9/11 with my mother. By the weekend she emphatically told me that no one was coming to her birthday party on Sunday. When I asked why in the world she thought that she said, "Because everyone was killed in the Twin Towers." My heart shattered that I had caused her that pain and I kicked myself for letting her watch it. I was much more careful after that.


    If you have a loved one with dementia, please don't let them watch the news. Put on a beautiful romance or a wonderful comedy - so if they incorporate what they see into their reality - it will only be love and laughter. Wouldn't you want someone to do that for you?


    You can learn more about Jacqueline and find information about her book at

Published On: October 23, 2007