Like any good son or daughter, chances are you have worked hard to nurture a loving relationship between your parents and your kids. A child’s bond with a grandparent is both powerful and rewarding. So what happens when the loving grandmother or grandfather no longer recognizes those beautiful grandchildren?
Alzheimer’s disease affects family life in so many ways, but for children the impact is particularly unsettling. Sadness, confusion, worry, and anger are only some of the emotions children may feel. Those mixed emotions can play out in the form of physical complaints, poor performance in school, and social isolation from friends.
As with any situation, honesty is always the best policy, especially for those difficult but necessary conversations about the toll Alzheimer’s disease takes on loved ones. In the simplest of terms, educate your kids about the disease and encourage them to ask questions. Be sure to respond honestly to whatever concerns they may have, and encourage them to express their feelings. It can be reassuring for kids to know that a person’s behavior is part of an illness and is not directed at them.
Maria Shriver’s own heartbreak watching her father, Sargent Shriver, suffer from Alzheimer’s led her to write a wonderful children’s book that gently addresses the subject for kids. “What’s Happening To Grandpa?” highlights the challenges faced by families dealing with Alzheimer’s and how to keep communication open between the generations. The book reinforces the importance of awareness and acceptance among family members and friends. The National Institutes of Health offer a variety of resources to make the conversation easier with kids of all ages.
For many kids and teens, activities that strengthen family ties can help lessen the anxiety they feel about Alzheimer’s disease. Try one of the following:
- Get outdoors. Go for a walk, garden, or rake leaves together.
- Look at old photographs and share good memories of family members.
- Create a scrapbook or photo album about your loved ones.
- Keep a journal together about your family.
Remember, kids are resilient. Allowed time to process the information, they will come to understand its impact and will continue to shower their elderly relatives with lots of love.
Lisa Vogel is the owner of The Lisa Vogel Agency, a home health care agency providing custodial care on a live-in or hourly basis for clients who require long-term care, rehabilitation care, or hospice care. If you have questions about how home health care providers can work with Alzheimer’s patients in your family, call The Lisa Vogel Agency at 410-363-7770.