Note: Each issue of Dimensions features a contribution from one of the Alzheimer's groups in the state of Washington. This article is adapted from Perspectives, the newsletter of the Alzheimer's Association, Western and Central Washington State Chapter, and reprinted with permission.
A growing number of children and teens have parents, grandparents and other relatives who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. As the adult family members cope with their own loss and grief issues, the needs of the children may be unintentionally overlooked. The following tips are some suggestions in helping kids cope with Alzheimer's disease.
Give your kids information about Alzheimer's disease. Help them understand what is going on and provide age-appropriate information and explanations. Talk about ways to make their friends feel welcome and comfortable in your home.
Encourage young people to ask questions. Discuss changes in the patient including strange behaviors as they occur. Include the child in decisions that may impact him or her, such as giving up a bedroom so that a grandparent who needs care can move into the family home.
Remind kids that the behavior of the person with AD is a reflection of the disease. Help them understand that the patient may not always mean what they say, or intend to act the way they sometimes do. Encourage kids to explore their feelings. Reassure them that they are not the cause of the disease.
Let them help. Find activities that the young person can help with. Be careful not to overwhelm them with too many responsibilities. A child should not be allowed or expected to provide care at the expense of normal childhood development. Don't force children to spend time with the person if they are uncomfortable.
Set aside time for the kids. Find some time each day to give your children individualized attention, reassurance and emotional support.
For more information about this or any other Alzheimer's issue, call the Alzheimer's Association help line at 206-783-6600 or 800-848-7097.
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