Talking with Kids About Alzheimer’s

If you are struggling to figure out how to explain Alzheimer’s to your kids, these 5 tips will help.

Handsome grandpa and grandson are doing puzzle and smiling while spending time together at home

Understanding the changes Alzheimer’s disease causes in a loved one can be difficult at any age. The disease is complicated, especially given how randomly symptoms can come and go. Children may have an especially difficult time understanding what is going on with a grandparent or senior loved one.

A grandparent might remember their grandchild’s name one day but be unable to recognize them other days. Agitation, which can be frightening for children, is common among people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

How can you explain Alzheimer’s disease to the children in your family? We have a few tips you might find useful.

5 Tips for Explaining Alzheimer’s Disease to Children

  1. Explain the disease’s unpredictability: It may help if you start the conversation by explaining to your kids that their grandparent has an illness that makes them forget things. Also emphasize that their grandparent will have good days and bad days. On good days, they’ll probably seem like the grandparent the children know and love. On bad days, their grandparent may act a little strangely and not be able to remember family members’ names or even where they are.
  2. Emphasize the disease’s role in changes: Children might internalize a grandparent’s behavior and think they caused it. Take time to reassure children that they haven’t done anything wrong and that the changes in their grandparent are caused by their illness.
  3. Reassure them Alzheimer’s isn’t contagious: While they might not say so, children could worry that one of their parents will catch Alzheimer’s disease, too. Reassure your kids that Alzheimer’s disease isn’t contagious; you can’t catch it like a cold or the flu. It may also help to explain that Alzheimer’s disease is something older adults develop, not younger people.
  4. Create an activities list: Before you initiate a conversation with your children about Alzheimer’s disease, create a list of activities the kids can still enjoy with their grandparent. Even if it is simple tasks, such as filling the bird feeder or watering plants, help your children see time with a grandparent might be spent differently, but it isn’t over.
  5. Let kids explain the disease: The Alzheimer’s Association has several video series to share with your children. In Kids Look at Alzheimer’s and Teens Look at Alzheimer’s, kids explain the disease for their peers.

Memory Care at The Wesley Community

As part of our continuum of care, The Wesley Community offers dedicated Alzheimer’s and dementia care for adults in and around Saratoga Springs. Our proactive approach to care helps adults with Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia live their best life. Contact us today to schedule a private tour to learn more!