Talking to children about dementia

Written by Active Minds on Monday the 7th of December 2015.

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It’s understandable that you may want to protect your children from learning about their loved one’s dementia but having an open discussion about the disease early on can help them to understand the challenges that you and your loved ones are facing. Here are a few tips to help you discuss dementia with your children.

Be honest, clear, and open

It’s important to explain to your children that dementia is a complicated and long-term condition. The more honest you are initially, the more prepared your children will be. This will help to reduce their anxiety and give them time to come to terms with the news. Explain that it’s okay to laugh about it sometimes too and that they can still have fun with their grandparents or relatives despite the condition.

Encourage them to ask lots of questions

You may be very aware of the effects that Alzheimer’s has on the mind and body but it’s unlikely your children have ever encountered or even heard of the condition. Take as much time as possible to answer all their questions and learn more about dementia together. Alzheimer’s UK has a kids and teens website with resources that may help.

Spend time as a family

There are lots of activities that can you do together as a family that may have a positive effect on an Alzheimer’s patient. You could create a scrapbook together, share a puzzle, sing together, go for a walk, or simply help each other out with the day-to-day chores. Here at Active minds we have a range of award winning activities that can help to encourage conversation between children and loved ones.

Signs your children are struggling

No matter how you talk to your children about dementia, they may struggle to cope with the news. Teenagers tend to be less forthcoming when it comes to talking about their feelings and instead burden themselves with grief and anxiety. If your child starts to perform poorly at school, becomes introverted, or starts spending more time away from home then you may need to have further discussions with them about what is happening. You can also speak to their teachers and school counselors to help them come to terms with the changes that may be affecting them at home.