Fading Memories teamed up with the Psychology in Seattle podcast host Dr. Kirk Honda to discuss how to talk to children about Alzheimer’s. Talking with Dr. Honda, a professor and therapist was a lot of fun and informative. Dr. Kirk Honda teams up with Humberto (the layperson’s voice) to bring their 100,000+ podcast listeners an entertaining mix of seriousness and levity.
Talking to children about a senior’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is tough. Grandma’s memory loss might be scary especially if they haven’t seen her for some time. How do we maintain the loving relationship when faced with the challenges that accompany Alzheimer’s?
That was my main desire in wanting to talk to an expert and finding one that is also a podcaster makes this episode even more enjoyable. During our conversation I learned that Kirk also had a Grandmother with dementia. Our conversation covered many areas that you might expect when talking to a professional and that was good. I’m confident you’ll get a lot out of this episode.
Talking to Children About Memory Loss
Understanding Alzheimer’s or other dementia’s is challenging enough for adults. For children, watching the disease progress can be scary and overwhelming. The best approach to helping children cope is not an educational one but a reminder that they’re still loved. Grandma is still the same person, but she has a disease that affects her memory. She still loves you even is she doesn’t remember your name. Remind children that it’s important to continue to be affectionate because that’s what Grandma needs the most.
Here are the top things children need to know:
- Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain. It’s not contagious. You won’t get it by hugging or kissing Grandma. It may be beneficial to point out relatives who do not have the disease because children may fear that their parents will end up like Grandma.
- Memory is a very complex process. Explaining memory like a recording on a DVR might help children visualize how the brain works. Alzheimer’s means that Grandma’s DVR doesn’t record all the show anymore. This may help them to understand why reminding them that they answered that question or that Grandma already said that won’t help.
- Things will get worse. In an age-appropriate way, explain that this is a progressive disease and the brain will gradually lose its power to tell the body what to do. Preparing kids for behaviors they might see as the person gets sicker is kind for all involved.
- Nothing is your fault. Grandma didn’t get Alzheimer’s because you were naughty or got a bad grade. It may help to explain that there are a lot of grandkids whose grandparent has the same disease. There are almost 6 million people in the United States with this disease.
- Be respectful, kind, and calm. While nobody can fix dementia, we’re not helpless is an important message. Your loved one will benefit from many activities like singing, looking at old photos, walks in the park. Kids will feel empowered if they’re given positive things to do. Kids learn how to treat the elderly from their parents so it’s important to stay calm, have some pre-planned activities, and keep visits to just the right length. Too short or too long invites negative issues for everyone.
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