Helping Children Understand Dementia
When someone in your family is diagnosed with dementia, it affects everyone. While adults have an easier time understanding dementia, it can be very difficult for children and younger people to grasp what’s happening to someone they love. You may be struggling with how to explain it, what you should and should not tell them, and how best to protect them without shielding them from the truth. Our team has put together this helpful guide you can use when explaining dementia to your children.
Give Them The Facts
While we understand it’s natural to want to protect your children from information that might scare or upset them, it’s important to share some facts about dementia:
- Dementia is caused by brain cell damage, which prevents the brain cells from communicating with each other.
- The cause is unknown and there is no cure. This means a person with dementia will continue losing their memories and, perhaps, their ability to physically function. There are certain therapies, treatments, and medications to help people with dementia manage symptoms and enhance their quality of life.
- Your loved one may eventually not recognize you, but they are still the same person you’ve known your whole life. The fact that they’ve forgotten you isn’t a choice they made, it’s simply a symptom of dementia that is not under their control.
Explain What It Might Feel Like To Have Dementia
Ask your children to think about how they would feel if they woke up one day and didn’t recognize their surroundings, or any of the faces they see. Help them understand that people with dementia understandably can feel confused, stressed, anxious, frustrated, and despondent, and that they can sometimes have difficulty communicating those feelings. Having your memories taken by dementia is very emotional and hard to experience, and asking your children to imagine what it’s like can help them develop empathy and understanding.
Be Patient and Let Them Ask Questions
Adjusting to life with dementia is something your whole family will go through collectively. You can’t expect anyone to adjust to such a huge life change quickly or easily, so be patient with your kids while they work through understanding and processing what’s happening. We also recommend you encourage them to ask questions because it’s important for them to know they can talk about difficult things with you.
Take Them To Visit The Person
If you live close to your loved one with dementia, take your child to visit them regularly. Keeping them away from your loved one won’t benefit anybody during this difficult time. Be sure your kids know they can share their feelings with you, for example, if they’re feeling scared or uncomfortable, and before each visit, you might want to remind them that their loved one may exhibit some concerning behaviors.
Children are much more intelligent and perceptive than we often give them credit for. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with dementia, it’s important to include your children in the journey and ensure they feel included and listened to. It may be tempting to shield them from difficult situations and uncomfortable conversations, but they deserve to know the truth even when it’s upsetting.
If you’d like more information about how to help your children understand dementia or if you have questions about best preparing them to visit a loved one with the condition, please contact our expert Tapestries Memory Care team at UMC today. We look forward to hearing from you!
To learn more, please visit our website at: https://umcommunities.org/