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Friday, June 3, 2011

TWC: Crack for Old People

Background: My mom passed away four years ago. One of the many things I learned afterwards was that my father had Alzheimer's. Looking back, I can see that my mom did a lot of things to compensate for his dementia, but at the time I was oblivious. He was able to live at home for about 2 years. Then, we when he could no longer drive, we moved him into an assisted living facility. It was really nice, but very expensive. Since we had an extra bedroom, I talked my husband into letting my dad move in with us back in March. And that is when I learned about The Weather Channel (TWC) and Crack For Old People.

The Weather Channel is a neat idea. 24 hours per day, you can turn it on and see your local weather forecast. The programming repeats all day so you usually only have to watch about 20 minutes worth to find out what you need to know. That is, if you are an adult who just wants to know what to wear when leaving the house. If you are a senior citizen with dementia, TWC is Crack, plain and simple.

My dad wakes up each day around 7 am. He gets dressed, walks his dog, makes a cup of coffee, and by 7:30 am is ready for a full day of TWC. That's right - the whole day. I come home from work at 5:30 and there is his, in the "old man cave" watching Jim Cantore tell chilling tales of destruction. For the fifth time that day. Or he watches the local weather and tells me how the earth is changing and how we've never had storms like this before and we have the same conversation every day. Then we have dinner. Then he gets ready for bed. Same routine everyday.

The repetition mostly doesn't bother me. Having the same conversations every day are part of the disease and I am handling that pretty well. What troubles me are the napkins and papers on the table with writing on them. Names of medication and "800" phone numbers for me to call for all the things he can no longer live without.

He needs Nasonex for his runny nose, Prilosec for his heartburn, and Enzite because he's not sure what it does but those people look so happy and he is sad without mom. Oh, and the AARP has some new insurance he should get to cover his medical bills. And does he have enough life insurance so that when he dies we can pay for his funeral? And he wants an Aluminum Wallet. Suddenly, he is concerned with someone stealing his credit card information when he is walking down the street and this new Aluminum Wallet will protect him. Hm, pretty sure he doesn't have any credit cards. Look Katie - we can grow tomatoes upside down in the kitchen!

The worst are the commercials for the cancer treatment centers and all of their success stories. I get home from work and he asks about them and how maybe they could have saved mom if she had gone there and could he have done something different when she got cancer. Breaks my heart. And pisses me off.

Do the people at the weather channel understand that there are probably millions of old folks out there who spend the day watching the same shows over and over again? Part of the dementia entails memory loss so he really thinks he's watching a new show the first three or four times he watches a show. I can tell when he realizes he has seen something already because he mutes the TV and tells me what they are saying. Seriously.

It's like crack. He's addicted. He needs his TWC everyday so he can see how much damage the weather does and so he can keep up with the rest of the world. And make sure his doctor is giving him the right medications. He usually won't go out to dinner with us or go shopping because he needs to keep an eye on whatever storm is wreaking havoc across the midwest.

And I am starting to feel like the people at TWC know exactly what they are doing. Like they are a bunch of con-artist preying on the part of our society that should be revered and protected. Well, I'm here to make sure he isn't actually buying all of these things, but how many other people are alone and fall prey to these ads? Maybe the Department of Justice should take a look at their marketing practices before worrying about ball players using steriods or how the BCS sets up the bowl game match-ups.

Respectfully Submitted,

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