How to help your kids cope when a family member has dementia?
Most of the times, children don’t know what dementia and Alzheimer’s are and are completely unaware of the symptoms and signs of the disease. This can make them feel very hurt when grandpa doesn’t remember their name or when grandma forgets their birthday. That’s why educating them on the disease and how to cope with it is crucial for their wellbeing and the wellbeing of their loved ones. So, here are a few tips that will help kids understand dementia.
Teach them that Alzheimer’s is a disease
It might seem like lots of information for a child, but even the youngsters understand the meaning of disease. There are many amazing and age-appropriate resources online that can help you explain dementia and Alzheimer’s to your child in a way that’s clear and understandable. Go through some of those with your little one and be patient. Explain that their loved one’s brain isn’t working properly, but that doesn’t change any of their true feelings towards them. Older kids can even benefit from active discussions about treatment and causes.
Answer their questions
Kids and teens tend to have plenty of questions about the brain and the disease itself, so try to answer them truthfully. Don’t keep them in the dark, but explain everything that’s going on with their loved one. Encourage those questions—they are a great way towards better understanding and easier coping. If your loved one is a part of a contemporary dementia home care program, there are experienced staff members that will be happy to answer your questions when you come to visit. They will love to share their knowledge with your family and offer useful advice on coping and treating patients.
Give them guidelines for interacting
When visiting a dementia sufferer with your kids, make sure to set up some guidelines that will make the experience more comfortable. Explain just how important it is not to argue with people with Alzheimer’s because it will only confuse them more. You can also point out that someone with dementia has a hard time communicating with others, so encourage your kids to relax, smile and speak clearly. Ensure them that it’s okay to ask for help whenever they feel confused about what to do or say.
Teach them how to help
Kids often want to help, but don’t know how. Explain that dementia and Alzheimer’s still have no cure, but visiting their loved ones is a great way to help. Dementia sufferers often react well to children and instantly feel happier when they enter the room. It might have a beautiful effect on the patients’ mood and motivation. This bonding activity is not only beneficial for the patients but also for the kids, since it teaches them better understanding and patience.
Do things as a family
Once you’re confident that your child understands what’s happening and how spending time with their loved ones with dementia helps, it’s time to encourage visits. Often, kids feel uncomfortable and embarrassed to spend time with their affected relatives when they don’t understand the disease, but now the thing might be different. With proper knowledge, watching a movie, playing games, reading together, going for a walk or doing other activities with their loved one can be a very pleasant and beneficial experience for both parties. Not all things have to change after the diagnosis.
Encourage kids to continue with their lives
If your kids have a strong relationship with an affected relative, it can be very stressful on them. That’s why it’s important to encourage children to continue making plans with their friends, go to practice and study for school. Explain that they have no reason to feel guilty for living their lives and having fun—that doesn’t mean they don’t care about their sick loved one anymore. Once your kids’ lives are back to normal after the diagnosis, they will have an easier time coping with what comes their way.
Offer comfort and support
Most support groups for people with loved ones suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s often don’t work with kids. Plus, it’s quite rare for them to find someone who deals with the same doubts and problems among their school friends. That’s why it’s so important for parents to be there for their kids and offer support. Show your support when they express their emotions and offer plenty of words of comfort. Assure them that it’s okay for them to feel angry or afraid and that their feelings are totally justified.
Be sure to educate your children about dementia and Alzheimer’s in time. Don’t let them lose contact with their loved ones and deal with their departure without knowing why. Keeping them in the dark is the worst thing to do, so make sure to give them plenty of information on the disease, provide them with comfort and support and teach them how to have a loving relationship with their affected loved ones before it’s too late.
If one thing is true about Lillian Connors, her mind is utterly curious. That’s why she can’t resist the urge to embark on a myriad of green living/home improvement projects and spread the word about them. She cherishes the notion that sustainable housing and gardening will not only make us far less dependent on others regarding the dwellings we inhabit, but also contribute to our planet being a better place to live on. You can check her out LinkedIn.