6 Tips to Help Your Kids Understand Their Relative’s Dementia

Kids may struggle to understand their family member’s dementia, which can cause confusion and upset. Here are some tips to help you explain it to them.

Photo by Ekaterina Shakharova on Unsplash
Dementia is a life-changing condition which can impact people's ability to remember and recognise the world around them. As adults, we accept dementia as being a cruel part of life, but we understand why it happens. Kids, however, don’t necessarily have this knowledge.

It can be understandably upsetting for a child when their beloved grandparent or other relative doesn’t know who they are anymore. Trying to explain this, as well as why you’ve had to do things like take lasting powers of attorney, is very difficult.

As parents, it’s your job to help guide them through this challenging period. Let’s take a look at a few tips for how you can try and help kids understand what dementia is.

1. Be Honest (Depending on Age)

You might think that if you shelter your kids from the reality of dementia, they won’t have to experience the upset that comes from it. Unfortunately, this is not the case. You’re actually not helping them by trying to protect them from the truth.

Children will eventually work out why the grandparent or relative doesn’t understand who they are. It can be upsetting for both the relative in question and your children, so the best thing you can do is be honest.

You don’t have to be horrible about it, and straying into medical terminology isn’t sensible. However, they need to understand that the relative isn’t going to recognise them, and that’s because there is something wrong. It might be a difficult truth, but it’s necessary. 

2. Answer Questions

Children are going to ask questions about dementia when they first encounter it. That’s a very normal reaction to finding out what an illness is. You need to answer those questions as best you can.

Do some research on dementia and make sure you can answer basic questions. They may ask where it came from, if it can get better, and what it will mean, so try and be prepared with the answers.

3. Let Them Process

At the end of the day, dementia is a difficult concept to get used to. The idea that your relative may never be the same again will be upsetting.

You should let your kids process and talk about their feelings. Make sure they have a safe space to communicate how this makes them feel, because it’s important for them to deal with things. 

4. Explain What May Happen

Ultimately, your children may find themselves in a situation where the relative suddenly forgets who they are. This can be very disconcerting to experience, so it’s important to talk to them about behaviours.

They need to understand that if it happens during a conversation, they need to be calm and friendly. Panicking or getting angry with the relative is going to make them scared and apprehensive.

5. Reassure Them 

 The thing about a life-changing event like dementia is that it’s not just going to be something they deal with once. Kids will often have to come back and revisit the situation multiple times to achieve some peace on the subject.

Be patient with them, and work with them to help them understand how they feel. It’s important that they come to terms with what’s happening in a healthy way.

6. Show Them What’s Being Done

There are countless charities and initiatives that focus on raising awareness of dementia and looking for possible research into finding treatments. Talk to your kids about these initiatives.

Some children find that channelling their feelings into raising money for a good cause can help them. If they talk about wanting to do something for the charity, support them. It’s a good way to help them deal with it all, while raising money for a noble cause.

Photo by Manny Becerra on Unsplash

Kids and Dementia - Final Thoughts

Dementia is a difficult condition for people to live with. However, it’s often the youngest members of the family that are impacted the most.

As parents, you have a responsibility to try and help your child understand what these challenges will look like. It’s very normal for children to become upset or angry at the idea of dementia, which is why you have to be patient with them.

Ultimately, guiding your children through this hardship will help them deal with the situation in a healthy way.

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