Having a friend or family member who is living with dementia is difficult, and everyone will have their own way of dealing with those diagnosed with it. Coping with a dementia diagnosis or finding out someone close to you has dementia is distressing – even for the most thick-skinned individuals. Explaining dementia to a child is something that is particularly challenging for any parent or guardian – especially when it comes to helping them to understand what is happening, and why.
Dementia affects 850,000 people across the UK – one in three people over the age of 65 will develop a form of dementia, and this number is increasing as people are living longer. Children are extremely inquisitive and will question everything. They may not understand why their Grandparent isn’t communicating in the way they used to, or why their neighbour can’t remember who they are.
Dementia is an incredibly hard disease, affecting more than just those diagnosed. Explaining dementia to a child is challenging and the best way to do so is prepare them for what they can expect, here we have providing some tips and advise to help you:
How to explain dementia to a child
- Be honest about their dementia diagnosis Children are susceptible to everything that goes on around them – they pick up on things quicker than adults, as they are more often in a set routine. Because of this, they’ll notice if something is different. If there is going to be a change in the everyday family routine that will affect them, you should tell them before it happens. A sudden change in the routine with no explanation may leave your child feeling lost, confused and left out, which may result in them feeling rejected. Honesty is the best policy.
- Dementia and children: Get your children involved Unless your loved one has requested that your child stay away in the later stages of their dementia diagnosis, allowing your child to visit and actively participate in the care will help normalise the situation. From simply spending time with them to getting involved with activities, they’ll feel more at ease with the situation. However, the responsibilities shouldn’t get in the way of their everyday lives or take up all their time.
- Show affection towards the person with dementia What makes a dementia diagnosis so hard for family members is seeing the deterioration of a loved one – which can be very traumatic for a child if it isn’t handled in the right way. Show your child that the most important thing you can do is shower the loved one with love and affection. This means they will know that the person is still in there. Alongside this, show your son or daughter photos of the friend or family member and tell them stories about time spent with them. Tell them about what the person loved to do, where they worked and so much more.
- Remind yourself and your child that there will still be good times There are many stages of a dementia diagnosis – some days will be worse than other. Take photos of your children with the loved one – this will be a reminder of just how strong you all were later on. Alongside this, make sure the time your son or daughter spends with the person is full of pleasurable activities such as going for walks or listening to music.
- Explain the person’s behavioural changes to your child As dementia is a degenerative brain disease that causes a loss of signals in the brain, those affected will act differently to how they used to. There will be certain things that they will find confusing and upsetting. You should be prepared to provide reassurance to both the child and loved one in this instance if they are present. Explain to your son or daughter afterwards why this happened, and how it can be helped in the future.
Need a break? Find out how our carers can help?
Our Carers are here to help on a short or long term basis. All our carers are experienced dementia professionals and passionate about helping your loved one live as independently as possible. As well as support around the home, a live-in carer can help you with:
- Cooking healthy nutritious meals – we can help with the preparation, and cooking of meals
- Medication administration
- Personal care – our compassionate carers are trained to help you with everything you might need
- Hospital and GP appointments