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Talking to Kids about Alzheimer’s Disease

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
11/19/15  1:28 PM PST

To children who do not understand Alzheimer’s disease, the changes they see in family members can be scary. It is important to explain it in a way kids can understand.

For younger children a simple “grandma is getting forgetful” may be enough explanation. It may be helpful to be as simple and straightforward as possible.

Kerry from Parents Magazine suggests that it’s important to explain the Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition and tell the children what they can expect as time goes on. For example, “Alzheimer’s is changing the part of the brain responsible for memory and thinking, so grandma/grandpa is having trouble with making sense of the world.”

Make sure that the children know that the family member with Alzheimer’s still cares about them. Keep the relationship between the kids and the family member with Alzheimer’s going by finding simple activities you can all enjoy together. Try reading out loud.

Show you are comfortable by calmly handling any anger or confusion that may occur from your family member with Alzheimer’s. Make sure you do not force the children to interact if they are scared or uncomfortable.

Here are some recommended resources available to help kids understand and cope with Alzheimer’s:

  • The “Kids and Teens” section on the Alzheimer’s Association website (alz.org) for informative videos and fact sheets
  • Childrens’ books, including:
    • “Singing with Momma Lou” by Linda Altman Jacobs
    • “The Graduation of Jake Moon” by Barbara Park
    • “Horse Whispers in the Air” by Dandi Daley Mackall
  • Family-oriented Alzheimer’s walks to support the cause and meet others in a similar situation

Your family may also find this Just for Kids Activity Topic Sheet from the Alzheimer’s Association Helpful. You can download the sheet here.

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