With more than 5 million people in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, chances are high that disease will touch your family in some way. Watching someone struggle with Alzheimer’s disease is not easy for anyone. It is important to remember the disease affects the whole family, including children. It can be frightening and confusing for a child to experience changes in their loved ones. They may think, “Why doesn’t Grandma remember me?” Or “Doesn’t Grandpa love me anymore?”
As we observe Alzheimer’s Awareness month in November, SYNERGY HomeCare is offering tips and resources to help children and local families understand the disease. SYNERGY HomeCare is a non-medical in-home care company that specializes in taking care of seniors, including those with memory issues.
According to the experts at SYNERGY HomeCare, as families learn to cope with an older loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it’s important to help children and teens understand what’s happening to that person — both mentally and physically.
Below are a few ideas from SYNERGY HomeCare on how to help children deal with Alzheimer’s disease:
Questions and Answers – As soon as a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, include children in the conversation. Offer simple explanations about the effects of the disease. Reiterate to the child that Alzheimer’s is not contagious. Reassure the child that he or she is not the cause of Grandpa’s disease or behavior. Allow the child to express his or her feelings, and most of all, listen. Children are great at helping adults understand what they need to know.
Connect – Encourage children to take part in familiar activities with their affected loved one. Keep them engaged and connected through enjoyable activities like listening to music, looking through photo albums or coloring. Children can also be included in caregiving tasks to help them feel involved, such as making a simple snack or getting a glass of water.
Education – To boost a child’s understanding of Alzheimer’s, read age-appropriate books on the disease or take advantage of other educational resources. Children’s books about Alzheimer’s can be found in local libraries, bookstores or online. There are also many videos available online to help children learn about the disease and see how other kids are dealing with it.
Seek Support – Children, like adults, need to know they aren’t alone. Check with the local SYNERGY HomeCare office to find out if there are any support groups in the community for children with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s.
Until there is a cure, Alzheimer’s is not going away. In fact, the number of people diagnosed with this debilitating disease is expected to increase.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association:
Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease.
An estimated 5.1 million people ages 65 and older suffer from Alzheimer’s, and approximately 200,000 individuals are suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
By 2025, the number of people ages 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million — a 40 percent increase from 2015.
Coming to terms with a loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis is tough. Explaining it to a child can be challenging. Opening the lines of communication can be a great step in the right direction for everyone, no matter their age.