Explaining a disease like Alzheimer’s to a child may seem overwhelming but it must be done in order for your child to understand, at least a little. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you are explaining Grandma’s disease to your child.
Decide to explain it accurately. Many times, parents try to tell their children as little as possible about diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Not telling your child what is happening can be more damaging in the long run than having an honest discussion about what is going on.
Make the conversation age-appropriate. A small child might not understand the word “genetics” but a teenager will. Answer as much as they can ask in terms that they can understand and take cues from their body language and verbal responses to ascertain when they’ve had enough. Make sure that they know you are available for any questions they may have at that moment or in the future after they’ve had a chance to think about what you’ve told them.
Emphasize that Grandma is changing. Explain what “having Alzheimer’s” means in the ways Grandma’s behavior will affect them. Is Grandma forgetting names? Is Grandma getting lost? These are things that you can explain to your child. Explain that the change can be gradual or seem to speed up at times, but that Grandma is still Grandma.
Assure your child that Grandma still loves them. This is especially important if your parent has forgotten their name or started showing signs of accelerated Alzheimer’s. For a young child just discovering this disease, it can mean everything to know that the person they know and loved still loves them.
Explain that your child did not cause this. Some kids feel responsible for everything, even if they had nothing to do with it. If your child has ever been scolded by Grandma, he or she might feel guilty for her behavior because of what they did wrong.
Tell your child that he or she cannot “catch” Alzheimer’s. This can be a huge concern for children of any age. Younger children may wonder if they can “catch” it like it was a regular cold and older children might wonder if they themselves might get the disease someday.
Watch your child’s reaction. Even after you’ve explained Grandma’s disease, your child may feel uncomfortable around her and not want to be around her as much. This can be made worse by Grandma’s increasing disinterest in your child. Observe your child’s reaction and gently encourage activities with Grandma.
Using the Home Nursing San Diego option to help take care of Grandma can relieve the day to day stress for the entire family
Talking about Alzheimer’s with your child is just another way to keep communication open between you. By talking to your child about Grandma and her disease, you de-mystify it for your child, which can help ally your child’s own fears and concerns about Alzheimer’s. Discussing the disease calmly with your child helps your child to address it calmly, and to understand more about what is happening to Grandma. You’re being the best kind of role model to your child at a time like this.
Linnea Goodrich is the owner of Firstat Nursing Services, which is the only Home care Agency in San Diego that is both State licensed and certified by the Alzheimer’s Association. Firstat Nursing Services has been providing a higher standard of home nursing, home health and home care services for elderly, disabled and injured people in the greater San Diego area since 1997. To pick up a copy of her free report “Critical Questions You Must Ask Before You Hire a Home Care Provider,” Visit, http://FirstatofSanDiego.com