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Don’t feel guilty every time you switch on the TV. According to experts, watching television can be beneficial for people living with dementia

It’s easy to be negative about TV. After all, nobody wants their loved one to sit staring vacantly at a screen all day. But that doesn’t mean the television should be switched off permanently, or only turned on when you’re absolutely desperate for a break.

Instead, it’s time we started to consider how TV can be a positive and enjoyable activity for people living with dementia, says Professor June Andrews in Telly On – Older People, Dementia and the Potential of Television.

But first, let’s examine those negatives. We’ve all heard about care homes where the TV blares loudly all day, with nobody really watching it. We’re also used to being told TV is ‘bad for your health.’ So shouldn’t we be encouraging people with dementia to get outside and take part in social and creative activities, rather than suggesting they sit in front of the box all day?

Whilst nobody would suggest marathon viewing sessions lasting eight hours (or more) are a good idea, there is no doubt that we need to stop considering TV as the enemy to good dementia care. If we can’t realistically find ways to occupy our loved ones without a regular dose of TV, that’s okay. TV doesn’t have to be some kind of guilty secret.

Here’s a few reasons why TV can play a rich part in daily life for people with dementia

1. There’s something for everyone
We now have a massive selection of good quality programmes available 24 hours a day, and hundreds of channels. From vintage movie channels to brilliant wildlife, history, comedy, cartoons and current affairs.

2. It’s easily accessible
Invest in a user-friendly, large remote control so that the person you care about can operate the TV themselves and control what they watch. You can buy one for as little as £9.99

3. It helps ease loneliness and isolation
Watching shared, public events – whether it’s a football match or Songs of Praise- can help a person with dementia to gain a sense of connection and belonging.

4. It’s pleasurable
There’s a reason why billions of people worldwide watch television…it’s fun. People with dementia are no different to anyone else, and can derive a whole lot of pleasure from watching a classic comedy, a favourite film or a costume drama, or anything else that takes their fancy. ‘TV is entertainment, ‘adds Professor Andrews. ‘It can be a core part of happiness.’

2 ways to make the most of TV

Watch together
When possible, try to sit down with your loved one, even if it’s just for a short while. Afterwards, try discussing what they were watching, especially if it might have stirred some happy memories.

Don’t assume
TV tastes can change. They may not enjoy Westerns anymore but have developed a taste for nature documentaries. And don’t assume they’ll always prefer vintage TV. Not everyone enjoys watching reruns of Dad’s Army or The Good Life. Observe their reactions when the TV goes on. Do they look bored, confused or tense? If so, try something different.

What do YOU think?

Should people with dementia have their own TV channel? Children have several TV channels dedicated to their needs and tastes. There are also movie channels for men, cooking channels, sport and makeover channels. So would a channel focused on the needs of people with dementia be a help to you? We’d love to hear your thoughts and views on this.Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.