If one of your parents has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you probably find yourself struggling with a variety of new and unique challenges, one of which might be how to discuss the disease with your children. Alzheimer’s is a complex disease that can be difficult to explain, especially if your children are younger.
Below, we’ve assembled a few age-appropriate tips and resources that can help make the conversation and coping a little easier.
Tips for Explaining Alzheimer’s Disease to Children
Children may have an especially difficult time understanding Alzheimer’s. One reason is because the symptoms can change so frequently. A grandparent might remember who the grandchild is and call them by name some days, but not know who they are other days.
How can you explain all of this to a child?
We have a few tips you might find helpful:
- Start by sharing that their grandparent has developed an illness that makes it hard to remember things. They’ll have good days and bad days. On bad days, they may not be able to recall people close to them and they might even act a little strangely.
- Take time to reassure children that they haven’t done anything wrong. The changes they see in their grandparent are all part of the illness.
- Explain that Alzheimer’s disease isn’t contagious; you can’t catch it like a cold or the flu. That may prevent them from worrying that one of you will catch it, too.
- Before you sit down to talk with your children about Alzheimer’s disease, develop a list of activities the kids can still do with their grandparent. Maybe it’s simple tasks like filling the bird feeder or working on a craft project. Just make sure the children know they can continue to enjoy time with their grandparent.
- The Alzheimer’s Association has several video series you might want to share with your children. Kids Look at Alzheimer’s and Teens Look at Alzheimer’s are both video series produced by kids for kids to help understand the disease.
Memory Care at HarborChase
Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia can be very difficult to safely manage at home. Families often find that a memory care program is not only the safest option for a senior loved one, but an option that helps them live their best quality of life.
At HarborChase, we call our memory care program The Cove. It is a warm environment designed to promote success for people with memory loss. Contact the community nearest you to schedule a time for a private tour to learn more.