Helping Grandchildren Understand Alzheimer

When an elderly family member develops Alzheimer’s disease, it can affect everyone in the family, including the grandchildren. If they are young, it may be difficult for them to understand what is wrong with their grandparent and they may be hurt that their grandparent does not remember or recognize them. Whether the elderly family member lives with the family, in their own home, a nursing home or an assisted living facility, the grandchildren are usually affected by the changes they see. They may feel guilty for unpleasant things that happen in the family, even when there is no logic to support their thinking.

Giving grandchildren information they can comprehend about Alzheimer’s can help them understand and cope with the effects of the disease on their family. The type of relationship the child has with the elderly family member, how their parent presents the information, and what the child can comprehend at their young age need to be taken into consideration. We at Carefect Homecare Services know that this is a trying time for a person of any age and wish to inform you on how to help your children cope with this terrible disease.

Most children comprehend that when looking for a radio station that is in range, they experience static when a signal cannot be picked up clearly. Comparing the image of the static with the confusion in the grandparent’s mind might help a child understand why the grandparent acts frustrated and is confused. Brain signals can get mixed up.

If Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia has turned one of their grandparents into an irritable or abusive person, make sure the child know that he or she did not cause this behavior. Also, make sure that they know that their behavior is not self-inflicted. If the grandparent becomes angry, calmly tell the child to leave the room and explain why their grandparent acts irritable and that it is not personal. It is the disease talking, not their grandparent.

If the grandchildren can read, try to find age appropriate books to help them feel less alone.  A swift search online or in your local library should bring up a various amount of excellent children or young adult books about Alzheimer’s. The books can explain the disease in terms the child or young adult can understand.

Involving children with minor parts of care may help children cope with the situation. For example, letting the senior’s grandchild play chess with them may alleviate the senior’s stress or frustration. The senior would get a chance to spend time with their family and the grandchild would come to understand what their grandparent is going through and realize that they are the same person they knew when they were younger. They could bond once again.

Some children will instinctively be able to pitch in and help care for the grandparent, knowing and understanding how to soothe or help. However, others will be too frightened or confused to have more than simple contact. Always give children a chance to help, but do not force children to help or spend time with their grandparent.

The gift of touch can help the elderly family member feel less alone. Again, do not force a child to kiss or hug a grandparent if they are frightened. But if feasible, encourage some kind of touch. Giving a brief hug or kiss and holding the grandparent’s hand can help the grandchild comprehend that it is still their grandparent even though the disease may have changed them.

Getting support for yourself is also important. If the struggle to acknowledge your parents’ illness is overwhelming you, you probably will not be able to help your child as much as you would like. Finding support for yourself through a support group, a counselor or online, may help you have the strength to help your child understand what their grandparent is going through.