When a senior loved one is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it can be difficult news to handle. This is especially true for children who may not fully understand all the nuances that come with the disease. When grandma or grandpa doesn’t remember their name, or their great aunt can’t recall key memories of spending time together, it can be very upsetting to a child. Even visiting their loved one at the memory care in Macomb, MI can be a new experience that they don’t entirely understand. 

With that information in mind, it is still important for your child and their loved one to spend time together. To make things easier for your son or daughter, there are some steps that you can take to help them to better understand a dementia diagnosis and what it means moving forward. Here at Oakleigh of Macomb, we’ve compiled a list of tips that can help to get you started. 

Read more below:


#1.) Don’t be afraid to answer the tough questions.

First and foremost, children are bound to have a lot of questions. This is a natural part of being presented with new information, especially in regards to a loved one. While some questions may be more difficult to answer than others, it’s vital that you try your best to explain things. Don’t avoid the question altogether or simply try to change the topic. If you aren’t sure how to answer a question, tell them the truth. Open communication and honesty goes a long way in helping children to understand what’s going on and to keep a line of dialogue going for future questions as they crop up.


#2.) Remember to use age appropriate language.

When it comes to explaining a dementia diagnosis, keeping the child’s age in mind is very important. For example, an older child such as a high school student will likely understand the meaning behind the words ‘cognitive decline’. An elementary-aged grandchild, however, will not. You know your child better than anyone else, so you have the best knowledge of their level of understanding and vocabulary. 

Start by explaining that grandpa’s memory isn’t very good, and he forgets things easily, including names and important information from time to time. If their loved one lives in a memory care community, let your child know that while it’s different from grandpa’s house, it’s still a safe, comfortable place for him to live and they can have fun when they visit.


#3.) Reiterate how much your child is loved.

Whether they used to bake chocolate chip cookies together or go on afternoon-long fishing trips, if their senior loved one doesn’t remember these times, it can be very upsetting to a child. It can be even more upsetting if grandma or grandpa doesn’t remember their name or how old they are. To a child, especially a very young one, it might feel as though their grandparent doesn’t love them anymore. While this couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s important to reiterate their senior’s love for them.

Let your child know that just because their grandma can’t recall a certain event doesn’t mean that they don’t care. Remind the child that this isn’t their fault, and it is a symptom of grandma’s illness. Talk about happy times that they have spent together, or look through photos of some of their favorite outings. Help your child focus on the good times and remember just how loved they are, even if their grandparent struggles to recall their name.

A senior man and his son and grandson go for a walk outdoors at the memory care in Macomb, MI

#4.) Find new activities to enjoy together.

Due to the nature of the disease, you will likely have to modify the way that your child and their loved one spends time together. This is especially true if they are a resident at memory care in Macomb, MI. Changing up the routine doesn’t mean that they still can’t have fun together, though! There are many great activities that seniors with dementia can do with their young grandchildren.

A few examples include:

  • Coloring in coloring books 
  • Scrapbooking
  • Reading aloud 
  • Going for walks on the grounds of their senior living community
  • Watching a favorite movie or TV show together
  • Doing an arts and crafts project

Remember that depending on the progression of your loved one’s disease, it’s important to stay close by in case anything arises. Someone with dementia can face symptoms that can change quickly and without warning. They can feel fine one moment and then upset, confused, or agitated the next. Observing and being there to immediately assist if needed will help ensure that their time together is meaningful as well as safe.


#5.) Find various resources online or at your library.

If you are still struggling with how exactly to communicate a dementia diagnosis with your child, don’t be afraid to look around for some help! There are many great resources that are available, including online or at your local library. Children’s books and educational TV programming have developed ways to explain dementia to young ones in a way that is more easily understood. Make sure that you watch the video or read the book in advance prior to sharing it with your child so that you know the material well and you are happy with its approach on the topic. Also, this will allow you to prepare for your child’s questions in advance and how the content of the book or video applies in context to their loved one.


Memory Care in Macomb, MI

Following a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis, one of the best things that you can do for your senior loved one is ensure that they are receiving proper care. If yourself or another trusted family member is unable to take on the responsibility, your next best option is to research a memory care community that truly has their health and well being at heart. 

Here at Oakleigh, our memory care in Macomb, MI is prepared to do exactly that. By providing top quality care from some of the best staff in the field, you can rest easy knowing that your beloved parent or grandparent is leading their highest quality of life. To schedule a tour of our community or to ask additional questions about our services, contact us today!