A Brief Guide to Dementia for Children
I have put together this brief guide to help a younger child understand a few basic facts about dementia. At family celebrations such as Thanksgiving a close relative may have dementia and it can often allay the fears of a child to know and to understand a little about why someone is acting in a way that is different.
It is important that an adult go through the information with them. The parent, relative or friend can help get the message across better and answer any of their questions.
What makes them sick?
A relative, maybe a close relative, your mother or father or a Grandparent, has been to see a doctor and has been told they have something called dementia. After running some tests the doctor says that he/she can give them treatment. Treatments can include things like pills to help them stay as well as possible.
There are many different causes of dementia. It may be Alzheimer’s or from something else.
Why does my relative act the way they do?
People with dementia may act differently because their brain is damaged by the disease. It means they forget things and have trouble looking after themselves. They often need the help of others to get around and do things. Because their thinking can be all jumbled up they can get confused and this can make them upset.
What should I do if I am worried?
They are not behaving that way to frighten you. If they do not seem to understand what you are saying, or what you want them to do, it is not because they want to upset you on purpose. Walk away and go ask a grown up to help you if you are worried about them or about how you feel.
Here is a great cartoon called Hot Chocolate with Marshmallow
about Johnny visiting his grandpa who has a type of dementia called Alzheimer’s disease.
People with dementia like to feel they are being included. You have to accept that their behavior may be different and make allowances for it. But you can still have fun with them. A tip that may help you both is to talk to your relative gently and not be too noisy See if they want to help you color a picture or just sit and show them things you like. They might like to watch things on TV with you.
Humor helps overcome lots of difficult things so a joke may help. Try to listen to what they find makes them happiest.
Christine Kennard wrote about Alzheimer’s for HealthCentral. She has many years of experience in private and public sector nursing care homes for people with dementia. She has worked in a variety of hospital, public and private health settings and specialized in community nursing. Christine is qualified in group analytic psychotherapy, is registered in general and mental health nursing and has a Masters degree.