Talking to children about Alzheimer’s requires care.
You shouldn’t brush off their concerns or questions. Instead, you need to have an open and honest conversation that gives them the information they need without overwhelming them. Factor in their age when deciding how much to say. Take these four steps to help get a conversation started.
Your children need to be reassured that nothing they did or said upset their grandparent. If your dad gets agitated, your children might think they did something that made him made. You need to emphasize that nothing they did caused this.
Do Not Push Visits If They’re Scared or Uncomfortable
Younger children may be okay with your parent, but an older child or teen may find visiting a grandparent to be incredibly difficult. If that child really fears going there, do not force it. You could have them videotape a message and simply tell your parent they couldn’t make it for some reason. Allow your child to adjust.
When they do want to visit, make sure it’s in a location where your parent is comfortable and unlikely to be agitated or have a panic attack. Panic attacks can be frightening to watch at any age. You should have a safe place the child can go if your parent is having a bad day. A room alone with a computer, TV, books, or games will do.
Be Honest But Keep It Simple
Talk to your child honestly about Alzheimer’s, but don’t overwhelm your son or daughter with information. For a younger child, you can simply say the brain has an illness that won’t get better. Talk about some of the things that will be coming up, but keep it to symptoms in the near future and not years from now.
Allow Them to Be Emotional
How hard is it for you to get through a visit with your mom or dad without getting emotional? It’s also hard for your child. Allow them to cry, get mad, or show emotions out of your mom or dad’s sight. Don’t tell your child to bottle it up.
Spend Time With Your Child
If you’re caring for your parent, don’t ignore your child’s needs in the process. Respite care is essential. Have a senior care aide spend time with your parent while you and your child go to the movies, talk a walk, or do something fun. You both need it. Call a senior care agency to arrange respite care.