My Blog

May 27, 2017

Elderly Mothers and the Pros and Cons of televisions

The complaints are legion.

With nothing else to do but worry about those around them, it is not surprising that Retirement Communities are rife with bickering, quarreling, and back-biting complaints. Fortunately, the Facility Mom is in is relatively peaceful. The complaints, when they come, and they always do, are expressed quietly, by note or in person, to me rather than to Mom.

This time it was the television. The neighbors in the apartments on either side complained about her TV being played too loudly. Not surprising since her hearing is so bad. I’ve moved her comfy chair within two feet of the TV and turned it down a little. She will, without doubt, notice but she doesn’t know how to turn up the volume.

Having the television has been a boon. Mom has always been a reader, not a television watcher. There are certain programs she enjoys: Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. The challenge is that they are not on the same channel. And as I have mentioned before, the remote is still a strange and frightening mystery in her hand.

I’ve taped large signs to the two remotes that command the TV in the living room. One just says “PUSH – ON – OFF” with a big arrow pointing to the much-too-small button at the top of the remote. I taped paper over the rest of the buttons with wide, thick packaging tape so she wouldn’t get confused. She tore the paper off anyway to get to the buttons she thought she needed.

The other remote is a very simple one supplied by the cable company. I added a large page with instructions to “PUSH 1- 3 AT 3:00 PM” and “PUSH 1 – 1 AT 3:30 PM”. Why was I naïve enough to think that would work? It stays on Channel 11 unless I am there to change it. And the large page with detailed instructions that explains the “Guide” button was a complete waste.

However, she has learned to use the ON-OFF button. Now she can watch TV. Like all good Americans, she is mesmerized by the drone. She watches TV most of the time, staring at the screen in numb fascination. Some of it actually sinks in and she enjoys many of the game shows and, of course, Ellen.

She still reads, but the TV is easier to use. She doesn’t have to hold the heavy book, nor remember the topic of the book that she was reading. I think she has reread Hamilton, Sam Houston and Montesquieu a dozen times each, or at least started them over since she has forgotten where she left off. And there is the entire set of Lee Childs, read and reread, with confused interest.

Once the TV set is turned up to 100% volume, it does cause problems. We tried the remote headset that she can wear anywhere. With it, she can listen to the TV without disturbing others. My kind and beautiful sister-in-law sent the set Mom used when she stayed with them. The problem is recharging. The headset must be placed back on its charger so it is ready to use again the next time. Not something Mom remembers to do. Then she is puzzled by why it doesn’t work.

I also see a disadvantage to having the TV. Before meals, Mom can talk to the other biddies perched in a row on the chairs outside the dining room. However, after meals, they scatter like birds to their rooms. I suppose they are watching TV also. This means they aren’t available to talk to Mom. And Mom, too, is closeted in her room watching TV. It will be hard to make friends that way.

Fortunately, the Facility has an Activities Director. Tracey is cute as a button and she tries her hardest to gather the flock to come exercise or play the various games she has planned. Some will come out and play Bunko, Bingo, Bridge or Poker. Others play dominos or Scrabble. But it is hard to pry them out of the cozy, warm comfort of their rooms. (Have you ever noticed how HOT the elderly keep their rooms?)

TV or no, I insisted that Mom come out to 9 A.M. exercises. She is a changed person after she fell last week. Just moments before she did it, she had sneered at the “old folks” for falling. Her header into the door frame surprised her as much as it scared me but it modified her attitude toward “old folk.” I told her that exercise was the only way she could regain her strength and balance and keep from falling. Suddenly, the exercises were a real means to an end. I think she still hopes to regain her independence and escape.

Returning yesterday afternoon to check on her, I got word that Mom had exercised AND played Bunko. Maybe there is hope after all. Not escape, but acceptance?

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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