Talking to your Child About Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease can be difficult for everyone involved, including children, grand-children and spouses. Young children may not understand the disease as well as adults, therefore when their loved one has Alzheimer’s disease they are confused, upset, and unsure of what may be happening. This confusion is common in young children who are faced with a loved one with a disease.

Since Alzheimer’s disease will cause a person to behave differently than they used to, this can be frightening for a young child to witness. Although they do not know every detail about the disease, they are aware that something is happening to their grandparent. As their grandparent’s disease progresses, a young child may become too scared of their grandparent. A child may think of their grandparent as another person or they may become upset when their grandparent forgets things. A child may think their grandparent is forgetting things because they do not care or they do not think it is important to them any longer. Adults understand that Alzheimer’s Disease is a debilitating disease that changes a person’s personality along with other characteristics, but a child will not understand these changes.

It is important to explain to a child that their grandparent is ill and that they have a disease. They do not need to know every detail, but they need to know that their grandparent is suffering from an illness. Honesty is the best way to keep a child from fearing their aging grandparent.

Parents often avoid the situation, or have their grandchildren believe that this is reversible, but this is not healthy for the child. There will be many changes happening to their grandparent, and through these stages, the family needs to be present. The child needs to have their place in this life experience, so it is best to involve them in their grandparents lives as much as possible. Even though the illness may affect their grandparent, it is still best for the child to know their grandparent.

Always answer questions the child might have about their grandparents’ Alzheimer’s Disease. Remember, though, that many children becoming scared when talking about the effects of the illness, and they start to worry about death. Do not focus on the illness itself, but rather focus on telling them how their grandparent is the same person, and that a disease is affecting the way their grandparent is thinking. Explain how this disease will have an effect on their grandparents mood, memory, and reactions to things, but tell them that their grandparent will still love them as much as they used to.

Grandparents that have Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia in the early stages will understand how their disease is affecting their family members and those around them. They will try and act “normal” as much as they can around their grandchildren, but they will often feel badly about their situation. Telling a child to accept their grandparents for who they are right now will help their grandparent feel less guilt regarding their situation.

When a parent explains this disease to their child, it becomes easier for the parent to cope. As innocence is seen in a young child, we are able to understand the power of family, hope, and love. It is important to focus on caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, and pushing through the sadness. Understanding the disease will help you through the changes that will take place, and allowing your child to accept these changes with you will make the transitions much easier.

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