How to Help Children Understand Alzheimer’s Disease
January 22, 2019
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is devastating for families, and as a parent, you may find it difficult to discuss the effects the disease has on the mind and body, especially with young children and teenagers. To help children learn about and cope with the realities of this disease, it is best for parents and caregivers to be open to communication and as honest as possible.
Before reaching out to communicate with a child or young teen, consider the relationship he or she has with the Alzheimer’s patient. This will help determine what information the child receives and how it is presented.
Common Questions Children Ask
As the disease progresses, noticeable changes will occur in your loved one’s cognitive function and physical appearance. Children are notorious for asking questions, and many of them may be difficult to answer. Using simple words and explanations is an effective way to help children understand the disease, and there are a number of books and resources designed to help families do just that.
What’s wrong with grandpa?
Why does grandpa keep asking the same question?
Will I get Alzheimer’s if I spend time with him?
Will I (or Mom, Dad, etc.) get Alzheimer’s too eventually?
Will grandpa ever get better?
Will grandpa die from Alzheimer’s?
3 Ways to Help Children Understand Alzheimer’s Disease
1. Encourage Children to Share their Feelings & Communicate
Drastic changes in your loved one’s condition may be hard for children to accept and often lead to feelings of sadness, guilt, worry, and anger. These feelings can be overwhelming and may reflect in a child’s school and extracurricular performance. To help children cope with these feelings, it’s important to build a support system, in and out of the home. Assure your children that these feelings are normal and encourage them to share their emotions with teachers and peers at school.
2. Get Involved
To help children feel more comfortable around loved ones with Alzheimer’s, encourage them to get involved or help out with caregiving duties (but don’t give them too much responsibility). Doing so will help make the situation seem normal, and being able to see first-hand how adults and family members respond to the disease will help the child learn to cope with difficult emotions.
There are a number of activities that can be shared between Alzheimer’s patients and children. Some of which include: listening to music, watching television, jigsaw puzzles, and arts & crafts.
3. Reach Out
Providing care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s can be stressful for families. There are a number of resources for parents, teachers, and family caregivers to help children cope with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and you should never be afraid to reach out. Being able to maintain a balance between caregiving duties and family activities outside the home is important, and having somewhere to turn for help is valuable.
Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care Services in Florida
Care Options for Kids is here to help. We refer loving and knowledgeable caregivers to provide expert Alzheimer’s care – from respite services to around-the-clock care. Contact Us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment to learn more.