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How To Help Your Child Understand Alzheimer’s

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Presented by BetterHelp.

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming for everyone in the family. It is a heartbreaking disease that has no cure and progressively worsens. The person diagnosed with this disease loses their ability to perform basic tasks and must be cared for by their loved ones. They also may experience many cognitive and behavioral changes that are stressful and confusing. 

All of this can be overwhelming for adults, let alone children. Your child will probably have many questions and be very confused about this situation. Therefore, it is vital to have a good conversation with them about the family member’s diagnosis to help them understand the situation better. Here are some tips on how to help your child understand Alzheimer’s. 

The Basics Of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s doesn’t just affect the diagnosed individual; it can affect all their friends and family. Therefore, it is critical that everyone in the family understands the basics of Alzheimer’s and what it looks like. 

Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects cognitive functioning. It inhibits the person’s memory and may alter their personality and behavior as well. As a result, this typically independent adult will slowly lose their ability to complete even the simplest tasks and require care from their loved ones. It can be painful and heartbreaking to watch a loved one decline and forget their memories, loved ones, and even who they are. 

The many symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming to experience. This is even worse if you don’t understand what is happening or don’t have an official diagnosis yet. Some common symptoms that you and your child may witness in the affected person include:

  • Forgetting names, people, or important dates
  • Increased irritation or agitation
  • Using the wrong words to name objects
  • Not able to follow a conversation or finish a thought
  • Increasing difficulty in performing basic tasks
  • Repeating questions, conversations, or stories
  • Apathy and depression

For more information about Alzheimer’s, you can find more resources and guidance at the link below:

Tips For Breaking The News To Your Child

Discussing Alzheimer’s with your child won’t be easy, but they need to understand the condition so they can prepare for their interactions with their family member. Here are some tips for how to break the news to your child. 

  • Be open to further discussing the topic as this is not a one-off conversation
  • Answer all your child’s questions honestly
  • Show them how they can help the situation or make their family member happy and comfortable
  • Honor their emotions and frustrations
  • Provide them with healthy means to express their emotions
  • Show them age-appropriate resources where they can learn more about Alzheimer’s
  • Be patient with them as they adapt to this new situation

Your Child’s Reaction

When you discovered that your family member had Alzheimer’s, how did you feel? Scared? Confused? Overwhelmed? You probably experienced an array of emotions, some conflicting with each other. Even more emotions probably rose up once you realized the responsibility of caring for this person. 

Keep this in mind as you watch your child interact with their family member and react to the situation. They will also feel many conflicting emotions but may or may not handle them gracefully. It’s essential to be patient with them, as this is just as overwhelming and difficult for them as it is for you. 

Some of the emotions that your child may experience include:

  • Confusion when they see their family member act oddly
  • Sad that the member needs to be cared for 
  • Frustration when they have to spend time helping them out with basic tasks
  • Resentful that the person is taking up so much time and resources
  • Embarrassment if their friends or visitors witness the family member acting oddly
  • Guilt over their frustration or anger

These emotions can come at any time and for any reason. On any given day, a child may experience multiple emotions on this list. That is why it is essential to be patient and create a safe space to discuss emotions beforehand. Children need to know they can rely on you when they feel overwhelmed by the situation. 

It will also be helpful to show them strategies to process their emotions more effectively, such as meditation or journaling. That way, they will have an activity to go to instead of acting out or being overwhelmed by their feelings. 

Final Thoughts

Navigating this difficult time is not easy, especially if you have a child who is confused or overwhelmed by the diagnosis. However, it is imperative to communicate openly with your child about the situation and honor the emotions they experience. Helping your child understand this disease and what their family member is experiencing will help them navigate the situation better. 

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