Okaasan's TV went blank this morning.
As usual I was using our remote from where I was standing in the center of the kitchen making tea. I'd just changed her channel from the usual early morning shopping channel to slightly more mentally engaging (only slightly) Japanese news/variety show.
I do this every day now.
Okaasan would sit and watch shopping or weather news for hours unless we change the channels. Her short term memory doesn't tell her that she has watched the same information over and over, she is constantly sitting and waiting for the current image to change to something more interesting.
If we go in and change channels for her she makes an excuse about not being sure which remote button to press. But the reality is that she wasn't even trying to change the channel.
We can point our remote from the kitchen, through the glass doors and into her room. So we usually just change it from the kitchen.
One moment food blender sales for the umpteenth time - next moment a Japanese news anchor talking about North Korean missiles.
Okaasan doesn't react to the change in program at all. Zilch. In fact you can change the channels several times and she doesn't react.
So this morning I changed her from shopping onto missiles and went on making tea. Next moment I realise the TV has actually gone blank.
Okaasan is sitting looking at it.
I go in and fiddle around with her remote. Our remote, buttons on the Tv etc.
Okaasan kept commenting: "oh, but it's too early for any programs yet. There isn't anything on at the moment!"
After a few minutes I found the picture again and settled her back in with Malaysian Airplane stuff.
What if? OMG! what if the Tv is broken? What on earth will she DO? Not just today...but in the next hours or two until day care come at 8.50 am to collect her? Even that short time span - what would she do with no TV to engage her?
Dear Son had just left for 3 days...or might be 10 days, of ski work.
The thought of no reliable nanny TV to care for Okaasan.
It would be a nightmare.
She lives in front of the TV. Sleeps in front of it. Watches it constantly. Variety shows, cooking shows, dramas - she leans forward and laughs and enjoys. She still understands interesting programs. But a lot of the watching is just passive - hence the shopping and weather repeat screens.
She has newspaper and magazines on the table in front of her. She looks at them. She examines shopping receipts and underwear. She glances at the window. A few times a day she gets up and goes to the toilet, or goes into the other room to move clothes around.
But basically she is there with the Tv.
What did people with dementia do before TV?
I am trying to imagine. Because it is clearly a major part of her day. Of course real human contact is better. But failing that, and I imagine we are not the only working family too busy with our lives to engage in anything meaningful with our elderly relative, TV IS a great companion in the hours and hours of life she spends.
Years ago old people with dementia lived with multi-generational families and sat watching the coming and going of family life? That was the entertainment? They wandered around the local area randomly. They pottered around their home looking at things?
I actually don't know what Okaasan (and we!) would do if the TV in her room broke down.
It would be interesting to see. But I don't plan on trying that experiment. I think the change and stress would be bad for her. I think she'd get pretty agitated very soon.
Anyone reading this - is TV the constant nanny for your dementia-suffering relative? Or do they actually DO other stuff in their day?