Grandchildren and Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is difficult to accept at any age. The idea can be especially difficult for young children to understand and deal with. If a grandparent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to take a gentle approach with explanation.

Think from a child’s point of view

Suddenly a grandparent, someone whom you look up and listen to and admire, can’t remember your name and asks what you are doing in their house. That can be very traumatizing for a small child. Children are often smarter and more perceptive than we give them credit for, but they are also innocent and impressionable. When approaching a child to discuss their grandparent’s disease, put yourself in their shoes and try to use analogies that they understand. For example, bring a radio into the room and show them the static that airs between stations while searching for your desired station. Explain that the grandparent’s mind is like the radio, and sometimes it gets caught in between stations and has difficulty focusing. A real life comparison allows the child to begin to grasp why their loved one is suddenly acting strangely.

Reinforce that it’s not their fault

Children are innocent. They often feel guilty for things they have no control over. If a grandparent with Alzheimer’s disease is suddenly lashing out in anger or frustration, your child may take it personally. It can also be hurtful for a child when a beloved grandparent does not remember their name or does not recognized them. Sit down with the child and explain that they did nothing wrong. The change in their grandparent’s behaving is not a consequence of anything they did or didn’t do. No one is to blame for the disease and no one should feel guilty.

Keep children involved as much as possible

If the child is willing to continue spending time with the grandparent, that can be therapeutic for both parties. Playing games such as checkers or chess can stimulate the grandparents’ mind and gives the grandchild some pleasant memories to cherish. In the company of a caregiver, the grandchild and grandparent can go out for a stroll together or participate in other bonding activities.

Literature helps

If the grandchild is at an age where they can read, it will be helpful to give them a book specially designed for kids to explain Alzheimer’s disease in a way they can understand. Don’t simply brush the children off as too young to understand. Children will surprise you with their ability to handle tough situations. Keep the lines of communication open and answer all questions to the best of your ability. This disease will be easier to tackle as a strong family unit.

At Qualicare Family Homecare, we keep the whole family in mind when strategizing Alzheimer’s care. If you would like to learn more about Alzheimer’s care or to arrange a free in-home consultation for your family, call us today at 613.366.2899.

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