Sharing Tips on Handling distressing news - from The Alzheimer's society


In recent months we have all felt the impact that distressing news stories can have on our mental health. Sometimes it seems that tragedies in the world and on the news are being shown on every screen, discussed in every conversation and held stressfully in everyone’s minds. Whilst it is good to stay informed, people with dementia in particular may be very overwhelmed by this constant circulation of upsetting news.


When conflict happens, the news tends to churn out updates 24 hours a day, which can be very stressful to watch. The Alzheimer’s society recommends that if someone affected by dementia feels this way, they should limit their news intake, as distressing images can play on the mind the more they are consumed.


Secondly, because people affected by dementia can already struggle with depression and anxiety, constant upsetting news can amplify such problems. This is particularly concerning if someone has a traumatic past, as distressing images can cause traumatic memories to resurface. Therefore, it is crucial that we all take care of our mental health using the individual strategies that work for us. For example, calling the Alzheimer’s society’s dementia support line would allow you to speak to someone.


Lastly, if someone affected by dementia is experiencing time-shifting, here is some specialised support that you could give. When someone is time-shifting, they are experiencing things as if they are in a different time in their life, usually a period in their distant past, as these older memories are better preserved. This can feel very disorientating and confusing. Therefore, people with dementia may be especially upsetting for people time-shifting, especially if they have experienced a similar trauma in the past.


When someone is time-shifting, do not correct them and deny their experience. Instead, Alzheimer’s society advises that you listen to their reality, pay attention to what they are saying and how they are behaving. If they seem frightened, let them know you will try and help.


Also, to support someone time-shifting it is helpful to know about their lived experience. This may aid in knowing how they are interpreting the information on the news.


As media news becomes more accessible and widespread, it is important that people affected by dementia are supported when watching the reporting of tragic world events. Hopefully this advice helps prevent people from becoming overwhelmed or anxious.