Alzheimer’s and Children – How do you explain it to the kids?

Explaining Alzheimer’s disease to a child is difficult at any age. They often do not have a frame of reference for the decline of their elderly loved one. Depending on the age of the child they may have a difficult time understanding that it is:

  • not contagious
  • not curable
  • not stoppable

Youth is a time of invincibility and vitality. Children may not understand the disease but they can understand and accept the vulnerability of the person with Alzheimer’s. While it may be difficult for a child to understand their loved one’s confusion, loss of memory, and general cantankerousness, they can be taught the benefits of hugs and loving touches for the affected. 

According to Carol O’Dell author of Mothering Mother, people with dementia need to know you care. A simple hug, a gentle squeeze of the hand, these are the things that bring them comfort in a confusing new world. It is important for the child to know that their loved one does not mean to be forgetful or unkind and it is ok to be upset by what is happening to their loved one.

One of the best things you can have the child do with their loved one is to create a memory box or memory collage that they can bring when they visit or when they spend time together. They like to remember things from long ago and share it with those who are patient and want to listen.

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