Thursday, June 17, 2010

Television Viewing in Long-Term Care (Research)

"I Love Lucy” Television Show

My grandmother loved watching the soaps on television. Home alone during the day, she laughed, cried, and wrung her hands with worry over strangers who took over her living room daily. But they weren't strangers to her. Like Lucy, she had plenty of explaining to do when I came home.

As a hospice volunteer, I wasn’t surprised at all when I visited nursing homes and saw the important role television played in many senior residents’ lives. Beverly, one of my patients, couldn’t hear very well. She disliked wearing her hearing aid as much as she disliked wearing her false teeth. But that didn’t stop her from eating her peanut butter sandwich crackers while watching television in her room. She listened carefully and tried to make sense of whatever she could. Later, she would ask me to unravel her confusion about a world that was nothing like she remembered. Even the weather was different. And why didn’t Oprah and Stedman just get married?

Some people have negative opinions about residents watching television in long-term care facilities. They think it makes them passive and less healthy. And they would be correct sometimes. I have certainly seen television used as a poor substitute for planned quality time. But watching television can be a positive experience under appropriate circumstances when it’s not used in excess. Research even supports this.

In a study of two nursing home settings, rural and urban, with residents aged 82 through 100, resident interviews and observations reported these results:
Television viewing contributes to structuring daily life, to satisfying old peoples' needs for reflection and contemplation, and to residents’ remaining socially integrated. (That certainly worked for my grandmother.)

Nursing home residents are often curious and eager to know about what is going on outside the nursing home world, even when they don’t agree with what they discover. In fact, disagreement can add to lively social discussions. Watching television and learning new information helps residents stay engaged with others and contributes to their wells of communication. Hmm, sounds like the same positive impact good television can have on people in general.

Frances Shani Parker, Author


  1. The information you given is very helpful for the conscious people and it helps to communicate between the same thinking of choice. Also to have best output of it we need some management between the Hospice and Nursing Homes

  2. Shani,
    The idea of beneficial television is certainly true. However in most of the nursing homes I've visited the TV is on and the residents are napping. It is as if someone had been singing a lullaby to them! For television to be theraputic a staff member or volunteer must draw their attention to what's happening on the set, comment about it, etc. Don't forget it is very difficult for many of these residents to focus. This is true of any passive activities like entertainment, lectures, demomstrations,etc.. The residents must be drawn into whatever is happening or else many of these residents will simply withdraw into themselves.

  3. Sheila, thanks for input about your experiences and how television viewing can be more helpful to residents.

  4. I use TV a lot with Mom, who is almost 90 with varying degrees of Alzheimer's. I dare say she's better now than a year ago and is back to reading words, trying to make sense of everything.

    First, we have made friends via TV with Andre Rieu on DVD. His shows, even those requiring subtitles, we watch dozens of times and do not tire. The music becomes familiar, the Redetzky March becomes the walking song, and he has a great humor and spirit. The Radio City Music Hall DVD is the best one, featuring the Harlem Gospel Choir.

    I find and also make videos for "wallpaper," ambient nature videos. I just got BluRay so bought "Yosemite National Park" and play the stunning images with only the nature sounds. I have filmed and made a half dozen nature videos (backyard squirrels, sunflowers, etc.) that I have refined and put in a tad of music. These I have on looped play and some we've probably had running a hundred hours.

    We have viewed a lot of Ballet videos, and the one I put on often is "Jewels" the Choreography of Ballanchine danced by the Paris Opera Ballet. the images are deep colors or white, and easy to follow the movements. Mom moves along. (Hint, don't play the middle Ruby Stravinsky part, too harsh.)

    Movies, nothing beats "Mama Mia." I bought the first two seasons of "I Love Lucy," which was luckily filmed on 16mm, so the transfers are very sharp.

    Concert videos are also well received, especially that talented Dudamel. His encores are very exciting.

    Oh, this was a big project. I got my niece to come over and sing with Mom outdoors along to "One Love" from the Playing for Change people. These days, there is no reason the residents themselves cannot be TV stars for inhouse use (knowing there are patient privacy concerns). Make a slide show of them having fun. These days it's easy on most DVD players, stick images on USB drive and the DVD player will play them one after another.

    That song I did of Mom is at
    should be near the top of my video list. Also see the most recent, the one of the therapy dog Boston visit.

  5. Thanks, Carol, I received both of your responses. The first one didn't publish because I moderate comments before publishing.

    The television and other media projects you are doing with your mother sound fantastic. I'm so glad she is doing better. I agree that long-term care residents probably would enjoy viewing themselves, too.

    The video “Come Back as a Flower” showing your mother "deadheading" (a new term for me) is lovely. You are fortunate to have so many varieties of flowers.

    I certainly wish you and your mother continued success with these therapeutic and enjoyable activities.