Someone asked me about this recently and I think it’s a topic that I haven’t discussed very much. It is curious and I’m often asked if the person with the person with dementia can read.
Actually, most folks with Alzheimer’s and Dementia can read and watch television as much as they ever did in the past. What’s different about their entertainment habits as their Alzheimer’s progresses is their ability to comprehend and understand what they are reading or watching.
Into Middle Stage those with Alzheimer’s have a shortened attention span, so a memory may only be held for a few moments. When someone with dementia reads or watches television it can become a confusing experience. They might read a paragraph, then look away for a minute and forget what they just read.
There is no more learning, or holding onto memories since memories disappear shortly after occurring. If a person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia watches a movie, during the first commercial-break they would forget all they had already seen previously. So the film would seem disjointed, making little sense to them even though the person with dementia read the entire book or watched the entire film.
My Mom was an avid reader and read well into Middle Stage Alzheimer’s. I actually noticed her reading when I was certain she could not remember what she was reading. Part of it, I believe, was the actual habit of reading. When I suspected she could no longer remember an entire page, I watched her one afternoon. She sat with her book open on her lap for several hours, but never turned the page. Still, she may well have been reading–she was simply reading the same text over and over. I’m just not certain, but she was content to sit there with the book on her knees and read. She did that often.
Mom loved Crossword Puzzles and Word Find puzzles also. By the time she entered the nursing home (late middle stage Alzheimer’s) she could no longer do Crossword Puzzles but she still did Word Find Puzzle Books for many months after entering the nursing home.
My Mom was never too keen on television. But for as long as I can remember, if Bob Barker and “The Price Is Right” was on during the day, she watched it. It had been her Favorite show for many years, and Bob Barker and “The Truth or Consequences” was her Favorite before that. When she came to live with us (Early Middle Stage) she couldn’t follow a movie or series television. During the time it took to show the commercial advertising, Mom would forget the plot of the show. So she took no interest in that sort of television. There are many Television shows that they can watch and enjoy though.
- Music and Comedy Shows without a plot line
- Music Videos (Mom was a fan of the Nashville Network)
- News Shows for a limited time (When they hear the same news story more than once, it becomes confusing)
A few other Activities they might enjoy:
- Coloring Books
- Stringing Beads
- Rolling Yarn
- Folding clothes, especially towels
- Word Find books
- Mom use to keep a folder with old bank statements/She felt in-control of her finances and carried them in her purse
- If you have pictures that need to be sorted/Envelopes or mail that needs t
o be sorted
- They love activities that keep their hands busy
I hope this helps you to understand how the person with dementia reads a book or watches a movie or television show. If you have any thoughts you’d like to ad or questions to ask—Feel free to comment.