Protect Alzheimer’s Patients from Information Overload

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by Ray Burow |

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We live in a global society, and within our society terrible things happen. We indirectly face tragedy every day. We’re constantly bombarded by breaking news that keeps us reeling.

It is a hard reality for those of us with healthy minds, but it is even more disturbing for a person with dementia. They don’t process information in the same way.

When bad things happen

Processing what happens next door or across the globe is difficult for a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

My mother watched the news each night. It was a habit that she and my father had developed over the years. But her comprehension was compromised as her mind became more fragile. She heard the newscaster’s words, but grasping the story’s intent was nearly impossible. What she did understand was fleeting.

Sadly, the disturbing images that floated across the screen weren’t lost on her. The graphic images were gripping and always left her with the same unanswerable inquiry: Why?

No good answers

Why? That’s the simple question tragedy leaves with us, regardless of our mental capacity. The difference is that folks without dementia understand that there’s no answer to the question. My mother was plagued by it. Why did terrorists fly planes into the World Trade Center? Why would someone walk into a school and shoot innocent children?

Other questions plagued me. Should my mother be exposed to tragic news and graphic images? How would those stories affect her? Sometimes when watching a television drama or an action movie, Mom would ask, “Is that real?” She had a difficult time separating truth from fiction. We began to be very careful about what we watched on television in Mom’s presence. She sometimes would place herself in the story. I remember her asking about a bomb under her seat or some such thing.

Mom accepted that movies were pretend, but I could not explain to her that life is sometimes stranger than fiction. Or that broadcast news is all too real.

Sheltering a loved one

A primary responsibility of a caregiver is to keep a loved one from harm. In the same way that you might protect a child from information overload, so should a person with dementia be sheltered. Plan how your loved one will consume media. Keep an eye on the reactions to a media experience. Scary stories with graphic pictures can cause fear to take root. Avoid these scenarios. If you’re a news junkie, catch up privately.

Choose activities for your loved one that promote calm.

There’s no guarantee that sheltering your loved one from disturbing images and news will protect them from fear. It’s a common thread of experience for many. But providing a safe place from the tragedies that surround us can’t hurt.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.


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