Having an aging loved one comes with many challenges regardless of their health. Limitations caused by age affect every aspect of life and can be a hard adjustment for everyone involved. It is all the harder when a loved one suffers from dementia. Young children, unaccustomed to some of life’s harder realities, may need your help understanding and coping with this extremely difficult disorder. Use the following guide when helping children understand dementia.
7 Things to Remember as You Talk to Children About Dementia
Having a loved one in assisted living can be hard enough, but it is so much harder when that loved one has dementia. Children will likely never have encountered anything like it. Get started learning to help them cope with these 7 tips:
- Children can sense the tension even if you haven’t given them all the facts. They will likely know something is happening and be able to feel it in the atmosphere and behavior of the adults around them. Because of this, understanding the problem can be reassuring for them.
- It is natural to feel the need to protect them,but they need you to explain it to them clearly and to see and feel your calmness. Encourage them to ask all the questions they have, even if you don’t know the answers.
- Children need to know they can help make their loved one feel loved. Explain to them that there is no cure for dementia, but their loved one needs them. Help them come up with ways they can make their loved one feel loved.
- Children learn by watching you and how you handle coping with difficult situations. They will be learning valuable life-skills on how to handle distressing events and painful emotions by watching the adults around them.
- Children need to express their feelings in a safe, loving environment. They will go through grief, confusion, sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, feelings of loss, and guilt (for feeling all of this). They may need your encouragement to have the courage to express themselves. Ask them how it makes them feel.
- Use association to help them understand dementia. They will understand when their body gets sick and they need to go to the doctor. Explain to them that just like when their body is sick and they need a doctor, their loved one’s brain is sick now.
- Children need to trust you so tell them all of the truth. They need to understand that dementia is currently incurable and that their loved one is only going to get worse. Go over the things he or she can no longer do and the things they can still do. Also talk about what to expect as the condition progresses. They want you to be honest and open, even when it hurts.
Be the Stability Children Need
It is never easy to have a loved one with dementia, but it can be even harder for children to cope and understand. They need your example, your patience, and your guidance. Let this guide help you as you begin to talk to children about dementia. Contact Us for more information on helping children understand dementia or for information regarding assisted living and memory care for your aging loved ones.