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How to Discuss Alzheimer’s With Your Kids

Parenthood casts a wide net of conversations—some fun and light and others that are harder to discuss. Alzheimer’s is one of those topics that you may have to spend time talking about with your kids.

If a family member or friend has Alzheimer’s Disease, help your kids understand the situation and offer them a safe place to ask questions.

 

Here are some great ways to support your kids during these difficult discussions:

  • Provide them with an overview of what the disease is. A great resource to visit for this is the Alzheimer’s Association website: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp
  • Encourage your kids to ask questions. Be as transparent as you can with your responses.
  • Allow your children to share their feelings, exclamations, etc. and share yours so they know it’s OK to feel confused and upset.

Let them know they are not alone, and their reactions are normal.

 

Raw emotions are common among children, so be prepared for any of the following reactions:

  • Confusion and sadness. This is a hard illness to make sense of, especially for young ones.
  • Worry. Some kids will be afraid that the disease is contagious. Reassure your child this is not the case.
  • Anger. This is most common when children have to repeat something over and over again to the person with Alzheimer's. In this case, encourage your child to be patient and explain that they aren’t saying anything wrong.
  • Jealousy. If you’re taking on the caretaker role it will be an adjustment for your child. Some kids will act out if they feel like they aren’t getting as much attention. Try to set aside special time to help them adjust.
  • Embarrassment. Depending on your kid’s age and disposition, a sense of embarrassment may surface, and your child may want to avoid inviting friends over.

Realize that as a parent; there’s no wrong response for a child learning about this disease. Alzheimer’s is an adjustment for any family. Whether it’s affecting someone who lives in your home—or a close grandparent—it’s a trying experience for everyone involved. Do your best to discuss the disease with your child and offer them room to respond.

Consider keeping a family journal for everyone to write down their thoughts or create a scrapbook in honor of the person with Alzheimer’s. During this season, try to remain optimistic and celebrate the life of the loved one who is suffering.

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s that needs medical care, we're here to help. Review our list of neurology specialists at Beebe here.