Alzheimer’s doesn’t just affect those that have the disease. Most often, its effect is troubling and leaves a lasting impression on the entire family, including the youngest members. Due to the complexity of the disease and the wide range of intensity from person to person, it is, often, difficult for family members and friends to talk about it. Even though this is the case, Alzheimer’s is something that needs to be discussed in order to fully understand not only the disease itself but how to handle it.
Once the adults, usually the adult children, have mastered talking about Alzheimer themselves, it’s time to turn one’s attention to the children. Though the conservation is about something difficult, there are still ways to discuss it with the younger individuals in the household without confusing them or adding stress to their young lives. Because it is very important that all family members understand the disease as much as possible, we’ve complied a short summary on how to talk to grandchildren about their grandparent’s Alzheimer.
Most children, even those in high school, will have not heard of Alzheimer’s before. Because of this, you’ll want to ease into the conversation. But before starting the conversation, first choose a calm and private place to have the talk. A good place might be the kitchen table or the living room couch. The goal is to introduce the subject in a room that the child feels comfortable in. Some might feel that the child’s bedroom is a good place to discuss this. Although you might want to leave their room as a place for them to go to after the conservation if they want some space to digest what they have just learned.
After you have chosen where to talk, it’s now time to introduce the definition of Alzheimer’s. Generally people define Alzheimer’s as the degradation of the mind that causes memory loss. Depending on how old the child is, you’ll want to change the definition so that it’s easy for them to understand. If you’re talking to a young child, it’s best to leave medical terms out of the discussion and instead use vocabulary that is easy for them to comprehend. Once the child understands what Alzheimer’s is, then it’s time to tell them about who has it. This part may be very difficult for you and you may want to get through it quickly, but it is necessary to go as slow as the child needs.
Reactions and associated feelings
Depending on how close the child is to the person affected with Alzheimer’s, you’ll find their reaction may or may not be what you expected. Some might take the news very well, while others may seem confused or not want to believe you. This all depends on how much of the Alzheimer’s they’ve seen directly and how they handle bad news in general. Reactions also depend on the age of the child. Typical reactions include:
• Sad and confused
• Worried that parents will get the same disease
Again, these reactions are dependent on a number of factors including age, closeness to person affected and how they react to other negative situations. The key is to stay calm throughout the conversation and try your best to answer any and all questions they have. It’s also helpful to give them space when they ask for it. Sometimes children do better when they’re able to go into their room and think about what they’ve just been told before coming back out to you to ask questions.
If you’re concerned about talking about Alzheimer’s, there are resources available to help. If you go online, you can find videos, worksheets, books and other printed resources that have been developed with this conversation in mind. Even though this is a conversation that you may want to put off, it’s important to realize that the sooner you tell the children in the family, the more opportunities they will have to understand it and ask any questions they might have. The last thing that you want to do is keep them out of the loop. This will likely lead to confusion and/or upset them, especially if they are witnessing the effects of Alzheimer’s firsthand.
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