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Explaining Alzheimer's Disease to Children

Jun 29, 2015 by Anonymous

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to include your children in the situation in an appropriate way. While you will need to share information with them in a way they can understand, you will also want them to be prepared for changes that will be taking place. Assuming that children are too young for a conversation about Alzheimer’s disease will leave them shocked and confused when they overhear conversations or witness its effects. If you are unsure how to start the conversation about Alzheimer’s disease with your children, consider these guidelines.

Explain what Alzheimer’s disease is and what it is not.

Do not be afraid to let your children know that Alzheimer’s disease will affect their loved one’s memory. They will discover this soon enough, and it is better if they are prepared. Gently explain that grandma or grandpa may become confused and forget some names, but it doesn’t diminish their love for them. Remember to reassure children that Alzheimer’s disease is not contagious. Adults sometimes forget to point this out, leaving children concerned that they too will begin forgetting things if they spend time with their loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. You can assure them that they do not have anything to be afraid of and encourage them to spend time together.

Follow your child’s lead.

Your child may enjoy time with the member of your family suffering from Alzheimer’s disease just as much as they did before. It is good to encourage this and help smooth things when memory issues and confusion do occur. If your child needs some time to process grandma forgetting their name or grandpa asking for a long gone friend, be respectful of their feelings and allow some time away. Be understanding of your child’s feelings but also encourage them in their relationship. Remind them that the relationship is important to their loved one as well, and they should make the most of the time they have.

Be honest.

As your loved one’s condition worsens, do not be afraid to share this with your children. Prepare them for interactions by letting them know what to expect. Remind them that the unusual behavior is due to the disease not the family member’s decreased affection for them. Our children struggle with Alzheimer’s disease the same way we do, so give them the reassurances that have helped you through. When we sugarcoat or keep information from children, they are left confused trying to figure it out on their own.

Plan some fun.

Time between children and seniors with Alzheimer’s disease can be enjoyable when planned appropriately. When your child understands what to expect from their loved one, they form compassion and sympathy while participating in activities that they can both enjoy. Play cards, look through old pictures, or share a stroll through the park. Sharing an activity will make their time together an enjoyable bonding experience.

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