Study probes impact of TV on people with dementia

New research is investigating whether violent television programs have a similar impact on the behaviour and sleep quality of aged care residents with dementia as they do on children.

New research is investigating whether violent television programs have a similar impact on the behaviour and sleep quality of aged care residents with dementia as they do on children.

The Australian Catholic University (ACU) and Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) study is in response to observations that residents were becoming upset while watching some free-to-air TV programs and is part of an ongoing research collaboration between VMCH and ACU to improve quality of care.

Yael Marhaim and Melissa White
ACU postgraduate students Yael Marhaim and Melissa White

The study involves ACU Master of Psychology students Yael Marhaim and Melissa White observing 20 VMCH residents from four facilities in Melbourne for the next six months.

VMCH & ACU Professor of Aged Care Colleen Doyle said the students would investigate the impact of television exposure, including its content and the length of time watched, on the observed behaviour of people living with dementia and their sleep quality.

“In developmental psychology researchers have studied exposure to violent television shows and video games and the impact on children’s behaviour. We want to see whether this applies to people with dementia who may not understand what’s on the television and may lead to them feeling more agitated,” Professor Doyle said.

The project is the result of observations by aged care lifestyle coordinator at VMCH St Catherine’s Facility, Sue Sammartino, who is also taking part in the study.

“We notice agitation in people with dementia when news breaks are broadcast depicting natural disasters, wars, child abuse and animal suffering,” Ms Sammartino said.

“American style talk shows are confronting because of their tendency to raise their voices and talk over each other. This can seem like people arguing, and when a person has limited vision and hearing they can sometimes interpret this as an altercation in their environment from which they want to flee.”

Ms Sammartino said she has worked with residents at VMCH to build up a library of DVDs relevant to their interests, such as music concerts and musical movies, and she hoped that this research would provide evidence on the positive impact of relaxing audio visual experiences for residents.

Ms Marhaim said she and Ms White were excited to begin what they believed was first-of-its-kind research.

“It’s an important topic and we hope the research will result in some positive changes to lifestyle programs and how aged care residences are run to maximise the quality of life for these residents,” Ms Marhaim said.

The pair will undertake observations between January and June 2016 with results expected by November 2016.

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Tags: 'Villa Maria Catholic Homes, acu, Colleen-Doyle, Melissa-White, sue-sammartino, television, VMCH, Yael-Marhaim,

2 thoughts on “Study probes impact of TV on people with dementia

  1. I know this is true from my own experience with my mother and residents in the unit I work in , I try to never let them watch the news , and even the news paper upsets some of them . My mum had to stop watching some of the shows she had enjoyed for many years because they upset her and she thought they were her life , ie if there was a home invasion on the news she thought it happened to her . They are very susceptible to these influences and it all becomes very real to them

  2. Very interesting and worthy study.
    I have also noted when there is background music, the older and somewhat deafer folk I know find it hard to hear what is said on TV & so stands to reason they may misunderstand.

    (I did not have televison for some years and since having acquired it again I have notice the constant violence in shows – (yet Domestic Violence we’re told is unacceptable & growing problem.) No wonder if our aged are distressed at the constant reporting & showing of it.

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