How to deal with children’s questions about dementia
As Christmas is a time we often get together with friends and relatives we haven't seen for a while, it is perhaps no surprise to learn that enquires to organisations such as the Alzheimer's Society tend to peak in the Christmas and New Year period, with people worried about how to cope with changes in a loved one's behaviour.
Children often tend to be quite blunt in their observations and questions, and it can be very hard to know how to deal with their concerns.
Answering a query from a Mum of a 6 year old struggling to cope with her Grandma's dementia, Dr Simon Ridley from Alzheimer's Research UK has some useful advice....
Question: "My mum has got dementia and my six-year-old daughter doesn't understand why her grandma sometimes doesn't know who she is and can say strange things. How can I best explain it to her?"
Answer: "Dementia isn't like a lot of other illnesses and can be hard to understand even for adults. Explaining to a child why someone they know and love is changing can be a particular challenge.
"The last thing anyone would want is for children to think these changes are in some way their fault or that if a relative doesn't seem to know who they are it's because they don't care about them any more.
"To begin with, you might want to talk to your daughter about the brain – that our brains are what allow us to think, remember who people are, and choose the things we say and do. Explaining that brains – just like other parts of the body – sometimes become ill, can go a long way towards demystifying the condition in the eyes of children and will hopefully help your daughter to make sense of the changes happening to her grandma.
"She will likely have a lot of follow-up questions, some of which may not be easy to answer. To help with these, Alzheimer's Research UK has worked with families affected by dementia to develop DementiaExplained.org.
"The site provides information tailor-made for children of different ages and brings together stories, videos, games, and accounts from young people who know someone with dementia."