Helping Children and Teens Understand Alzheimer’s Disease

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When a member of the family has Alzheimer’s disease, everyone- including children and teens, are greatly affected. The impact depends on the relationship and closeness to the person with the disease.  It is extremely important to talk with children and teens about Alzheimer’s disease and to help them understand the disease process so that they can better cope.

Children and teens could be feeling any of the following emotions related to the diagnosis of a loved one with dementia: 

  • Sad about the changes in their loved one
  • Confused about the disease
  • Afraid of the behaviors
  • Embarrassed of the person
  • Jealous of the attention their loved one receives
  • Worried that they or their parents may develop the disease
  • Angry and frustrated
  • Guilty for getting angry with their loved ones

Common reaction from children and teens may include: 

  • Withdrawing from the loved one
  • Becoming Inpatient with the person with dementia
  • Performing poorly in school
  • Complaining of headaches or stomachaches
  • Verbalizing vague physical complaints
  • Spending time away from home
  • Not inviting friends to the home

Educating kids/teens about he disease is one of the best first steps to take. Encourage them to ask questions and communicate openly about their feelings. Offer comfort and support by letting them know their feelings are normal. Next, try offering kids ideas about ways they can interact with the person with dementia so that they can have purposeful and meaningful interactions and feel like they are helping. Some examples of activities kids can do with a loved one with dementia may include folding laundry, washing dishes, gardening, looking at old photographs, listening to music, dancing, reading a favorite book or doing an art activity.

There are many resources available to assist kids/teens in understanding dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association website has a whole section just for kids and teens with information and videos to help them understand the process. Find out more here: http://www.alz.org/living_with_alzheimers_just_for_kids_and_teens.asp

For additional resources on books, check out these reading lists from our Book Series on this blog:

Books for Children 

Books for Teens/Youth 

And of course, please call us anytime for more information/support on helping your family cope with dementia. 800-272-3900

 

 

 

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