News and Stress in Dementia

Everyone will agree that news reports are disturbing, challenging and stressful.  When a person is suffering from dementia or stress related issues, the inability to deal with these world and local realities doubles and triples.

The stress hormone, cortisol releases and blocks receptors in many neurons inside the cytoplasm. According to the Amazing Brain, this causes a blast of reactions in the neurons to admit more calcium through channels in the membranes.  The overwhelming amount of cortisol hampers the activity of the hippocampus and increases the size and activity of the main center of the brain for emotional responses (the amygdala). The amygdala is responsible for fear processing, threat perception and the fight-or-flight response.

Basically what this means is that, overwhelming stress can interrupt memory, cognitive and normal ability to process and function properly.  The result can be anything from anxiety, depression and inability to be in the moment to out of control fear, temper burst, attempts for fight or fight due to unreal expectations of threat.

Family caregivers might want to limit T.V. watching to fun interactive games or happy movies.  This may seem impossible to control in higher functioning individuals who still demand more independence.  However these are some things to consider.

-The power of attorney can work out a plan with the cable company to limit stations to those that the loved one enjoys but are not stressful to them.

-Fun activities can be planned for the times the stressful programs will air.  For instance, a lunch, walk or exercise class during the noon and/or dinner news hours.

-Join in activities at the senior center or local community centers.  There are many creative ways to help keep the person occupied and free of overwhelming stress.

 Talk with health care professionals about the effects of medication on the flow of cortisol.

Creating the Dynamic Dementia Care Team and Memory Path Care Solutions by Clarice C. Cook in print at and in audio download at


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