September 9 is Grandparents Day, and we would like to use this time to assist children with grandparents receiving dementia care, either at home or a retirement community.
When beloved grandparents have dementia, their grandchildren may become confused, frightened or upset by the changes they see. The best way for parents or other adults to help children is to openly respond to their concerns and honestly answer their questions.
We like the way that neuroscientist Tiffany Chow suggests explaining dementia to small children: “When you’re sick, you might have a fever or a cough. Grandma’s brain is sick. She has an illness that affects how her brain works.” This should comfort children as they learn that dementia is not a threat to them, but rather a disease that some older people get.
We can help children understand and accept dementia
With our tip sheet, “Talking to Your Children about Dementia,” families can help children deal with new situations and feelings when visiting grandparents with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. It provides advice on educating children about dementia, communicating candidly with them, explaining how they can help and encouraging them to show their feelings.
Our popular and unique children’s activity book, “The Unforgettable Adventures of Grandma’s Cape,” helps kids better understand dementia. Written by Joel Krof, our Executive Director of Memory Support, the book tells of a relationship between a grandmother and grandchild that is changing due to Grandma’s “forgetting disease.” The book presents activities to complete, all focusing on dementia and forgetfulness. Families can get this book for free at the main desk of any of our 11 Country Meadows retirement communities and by requesting online.
In addition, we recommend several books to help children understand dementia as parents discuss the circumstances with them. Families can also get a free bookmark from us, listing visiting tips for kids, by completing and submitting the form at the bottom of the children’s book page. Lastly, our coloring pages suggest activities children can do with grandparents with dementia.
Children can learn and grow from the experience
Alzheimer’s organizations suggest involving children by encouraging them to show affection, ensuring time with their grandparents is as enjoyable as possible. Reminiscing is also helpful, using photos and mementos of happier times with Grandma or Grandpa. Children who receive such support will likely respond more positively to the changes in their grandparents.
Neuroscientist Chow also recommends, “Don’t stop celebrating events like holidays and birthdays. This would isolate your family and cause more of a sense of loss.” Continuing traditional family gatherings can be particularly important for seniors who are adjusting to new surroundings in a retirement community.
Connections Memory Support Services at Country Meadows
For residents in dementia care at Country Meadows Retirement Communities, our Connections Memory Support Services program offers emotional support to them and their families. Our specially trained co-workers on the Connections team focus on building bonds and caring for the whole person through personalized support plans, customized exercise programs and activities that provide intellectual stimulation.
Many families who have considered a nursing home for loved ones with dementia find their needs are capably and compassionately met by our Connections staff.
We know that caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging, so we have partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to assist you and your family through our monthly Memory Support Group. For more information on a support group or our Connections Memory Support Services, please contact us at any of our Country Meadows locations.