Is Watching Television Good for People With Dementia?

When it comes to caring for loved ones with dementia, finding activities that engage their minds and bring them joy can be a challenge. Many caregivers wonder whether watching television is a good option for their loved ones with dementia.

Television has long been a popular pastime for people of all ages, but is it beneficial for those with dementia? In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of watching television for people with dementia and provide some tips for caregivers.

The Pros of Watching Television for People with Dementia

1. Provides Entertainment and Stimulation

Watching television can be an enjoyable way to pass the time and provide stimulation for someone with dementia. It can offer a source of entertainment and a way to engage with the outside world without leaving the comfort of their home.

2. Offers a Sense of Routine

For those with dementia, a sense of routine can be important. Regularly scheduled television programs can provide a sense of structure to the day and help to establish a routine.

3. Can Spark Memories

Can Spark Memories

Watching television can sometimes spark memories and encourage reminiscing. A TV show or movie from the past can trigger memories and provide an opportunity for your loved one to share stories and experiences.

4. Can Provide Comfort

Television can provide a sense of comfort and familiarity. For people with dementia, the familiar faces and voices of their favorite actors or news anchors can be reassuring and calming.

The Cons of Watching Television for People with Dementia

1. Can Be Overstimulating

Watching too much television can be overstimulating and cause agitation or restlessness in people with dementia. The constant barrage of sound and images can be overwhelming, leading to confusion and anxiety.

2. Can Be Confusing

For people with dementia, it can be difficult to understand what they are seeing on television. The plot of a show or movie can be hard to follow, and the characters may be confusing or unrecognizable.

3. Can Be Isolating

Watching television can be a solitary activity, and for people with dementia, it can be isolating. It is important to ensure that your loved one is still engaging in social activities and interacting with others to prevent feelings of loneliness and depression.

4. Can Be a Safety Concern

Leaving a person with dementia alone to watch television can be a safety concern. They may forget to turn off the TV or leave it on all night, leading to potential hazards such as fires or electrical issues.

Tips for Caregivers

If you decide that watching television is an appropriate activity for your loved one with dementia, here are some tips to ensure their safety and enjoyment:

1. Limit Screen Time: Limiting the amount of time your loved one spends watching television can help prevent overstimulation and agitation. Set a time limit for how long they can watch, and take breaks in between programs.

2. Choose Age-Appropriate Shows: Choose shows and movies that are age-appropriate and easy to follow. Avoid complex plots or shows with violence or intense drama.

3. Watch Together: Watching television together can be a bonding experience and provide an opportunity for interaction and conversation.

4. Monitor for Overstimulation: Be mindful of your loved one’s reactions to what they are watching. If they become agitated or restless, turn off the TV and engage in a calming activity instead.

5. Ensure Safety: Make sure that the TV is turned off when it is not in use, and check the wiring and electrical connections to ensure safety.

What does the research say? 

Several studies have explored the relationship between television viewing and cognitive function in people with dementia. One study published by the Research Department of Behavioural Science and Health, University College London says that increased television viewing was associated with faster cognitive decline in individuals with mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

The study concluded that reducing television viewing could potentially slow the progression of cognitive decline in individuals with dementia.

Another study by Eastern Virginia Medical School found that watching television can provide cognitive stimulation and emotional comfort to individuals with dementia, as long as the programming is appropriate and engaging. The study also noted that watching television can help individuals with dementia connect with their past experiences and memories.

These studies suggest that while excessive television viewing may be detrimental to cognitive function in individuals with dementia, watching appropriate programming in moderation may provide some cognitive and emotional benefits. It is important for caregivers to carefully select programming that is engaging, appropriate, and stimulating for individuals with dementia.


Watching television can be a source of entertainment and stimulation for people with dementia, but it is important to monitor screen time and choose appropriate shows. Caregivers should be mindful of the potential risks and benefits of television and strive to provide a balanced and engaging daily routine for their loved ones.

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