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Watching someone you love develop dementia can be unsettling, even scary. For a child who may have never experienced seeing somebody age, this is especially true. Spring Hills understands how daunting it can feel to explain grandma’s or grandpa’s health to their grandchild and we are dedicated to doing all we can to take pain out of the equation. Use these tips for explaining dementia to a child and encourage your child to join you during your next assisted living facility visit to see grandma or grandpa.
Tips for Explaining Dementia to a Child
While you may feel inclined to hide your loved one’s dementia from your child, chances are, they will better cope if you communicate with them. The key is to approach the subject in an age-appropriate way. Use these tips to ensure as comfortable a conversation as possible:
Understand how the child is interpreting the events. Understand that a child likely has no concept of what a loved one is going through. Though it may seem silly to believe grandma’s forgetfulness of your name is a sign she simply does not care, this is exactly how your child might feel. Put yourself in their shoes when approaching the conversation and be sure to pause every so often to simply check in on how they are feeling.
Explain it in a way the child will understand. Depending on the child’s age, concepts like “a neurological disorder” are complicated, and words like “disease” may scare them. Use simple terms; for example, tell them that Grandma has a memory problem and that sometimes, this happens when people get older – just like needing glasses. Remind the child that just because Grandma may be experiencing this problem doesn’t mean that others in the family will start having the same problem – there is no need to be afraid.
Show the child how interactions can still be fun. Grandpa can still go out for ice cream and Grandma can still go for a walk at the park. Let them know that their grandparents still love spending time with them. Helping out can become a game itself! Encourage children to take a role in helping out with chores that might help grandma and grandpa – see how many dishes they can dry and how many shirts they can fold.
Maintain Your Cool. Rather than displaying stress to a child, demonstrate how “normal” everything still is. Continue planning visits to see grandma or grandpa, but don’t force them to visit if they clearly feel uncomfortable. Stay cool and collected in your own interactions with your loved one; kids will often take cues from their parents.
A Family-Like Approach to Memory Care Services
Once a child sees that they can still have a great relationship with a loved one who has dementia, they tend to be more comfortable with this part of life. Keeping a family connected – whether or not the senior receives private home care or resides at an adult assisted living community – is important to Spring Hills. That’s why we hold ongoing family events at the facilities and provide numerous ways for families to stay in close contact with their loved one.