Tips for Children with Relatives Who Have Dementia

​​Lady-with-Child-On-Lap.jpgThe challenges that are associated with dementia can present difficulties for many family members. When there are children in the household, helping them to understand dementia and teaching them how to interact with a loved one with dementia can be especially challenging. Following are a few tips for parents to pass on to children who are in regular contact with a dementia patient.

Talk about it.​

Parents naturally want to protect their children, and rightly so. However, when Alzheimer’s or similar conditions are going to be a part of a child’s life, it’s important that he or she is given information to explain what is going on. It helps if parents explain, in an age appropriate manner, that:

A loved one has dementia, a condition that causes many kinds of changes.
The condition can’t be cured, but there are things that can be done to help.
Neither the child nor anyone else in the house is any danger of “catching” dementia.
Even though the loved one may behave differently now, he or she still appreciates feeling loved, wanted, and involved.
The parents are here to answer any questions the child may have.

Make suggestions.

Once the child understands what is going on, it helps if the parents explain in what particular ways the loved one is presenting with dementia.

Many children are eager to help. If that is the case, suggest that this child may want to do some of the following:

Talk with the loved one as normal, but don’t be surprised if they may not follow everything or remember everything that is said.
Try to get the loved one to talk back (but don’t be discouraged if they don’t).
Spend time looking through photographs with the loved one. Share memories that the photos bring back.
Do things together with the person with dementia. If they enjoy walking, go to the park together.  If they like to spend time gardening, help them weed and prune. If they enjoy music, listen to CDs together.
​Make an album or a box that has mementos from times spent together, and talk with the person with dementia about why these things remind you of them.

Above all, be patient and understanding. A child’s love can be a precious thing for a person with dementia.​

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