Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult for teens and young children to understand. There will be times your kids may notice grandma just doesn’t seem like she used to. And sometimes, without warning, she may get confused and maybe even a little annoyed. Unpredictable behavior from grandma, someone they’ve always trusted, can be confusing and frightening for kids.
It might be a tough conversation to have, but it helping your children understand what is happening is a good idea. But how do you start a conversation with a child or teen about Alzheimer’s disease?
The Memory Center experts share their top five tips with families:
1. Begin by planning a family meeting to talk about it. Spend some time beforehand preparing how to handle a few important issues:
a. Communication. Plan to share a few very simple tips on how to communicate with their grandparent. Remind them, for example, to approach them from the front so their grandmother or grandfather can see them. And to use a calm inside voice.
b. Activities. Make a list of activities they can still do with their grandparent when they visit.
2. The Alzheimer’s Association has given families a great way to start their family meeting. Kids Look at Alzheimer’s disease is a video series done by kids for kids. The channel is exclusively for kids and features children and teens in the videos. They have one series for teens and one for younger children. See the video here, or at the end of this post.
3. Encourage your children to talk honestly about how they feel. They may be embarrassed by their grandparent’s behavior or they may feel sad about it. They need to know it is OK to admit that and talk about it. They may also be concerned that their Mom or Dad will catch it too.
4. Make sure your children understand that Alzheimer’s is a disease and the disease is what is making their grandfather act differently than before. They need to know there grandparent still loves them, but the disease is making it hard for them now.
5. If your children are very young consider a trip to the local library or bookstore for a copy of What’s Happening to Grandpa? by Maria Shriver. It is recommended for children ages one through six and explains Alzheimer’s through the eyes of a young granddaughter named, Kate.
Alzheimer’s is a difficult topic for anyone to discuss, and we hope these suggestions help make it easier for you to tackle the topic of Alzheimer’s disease with your children.