DEMENTIA AND SMALL CHILDREN
There is no other relationship more precious than the grandparent–grandchild relationship. But even young children notice if Grandma or Grandpa are not acting the way they used to. They will have questions. “Why does he keep calling me by Dad’s name?” “She just asked that question five minutes ago!”
Respond to them honestly. Keep it simple and age-appropriate. Children under age two may feel scared. Reassure them. “Grandpa might have a boo-boo but, he still loves you.” For those ages two to six, you might embellish: “Grandma has a sickness that’s affecting her brain and making it hard for her to think well.” School-age children (six to twelve) can understand that their grandparent has a disease that “is tangling all the thinking cells.”
Provide simple reassurance. All children need to know that the disease is not contagious and that their relative’s behavior is not their fault. You may need to remind them often.
Validate feelings. Your child may be upset by the unusual behaviors. They may sense your distress or be jealous of your attention. Let them know that sometimes you too are worried, even frustrated, or angry. Give them the opportunity to share their feelings. Talk about healthy ways to cope. Check with a librarian for a helpful children’s book. One we found is “A Kids Book About Alzheimer’s”
Suggest realistic activities both will enjoy. Maybe listening to music or singing. Planting flowers or weeding a garden. Doing arts and crafts. Taking a walk or sitting outside to enjoy nature. Looking at photo albums. Storytelling. Having a picnic. Holding hands.
Never put a child in charge to “babysit.” That is far more responsibility than they can handle. It’s not safe for them, nor for the person, you care for.
It may be time to consider engaging in a home care agency, which can provide you with a Caregiver to ensure safety and peace of mind. Give Amethyst Home Care a call @ (800) 476-7059 if you live around Grand Dunes, Pawleys Island, or Litchfield, within Horry County, and would like to meet with one of our RNs. If you would like a more comprehensive home safety assessment, you can also call us and one of our Care Coordinators will find the right partner with which to connect you.