Ways To Help Your Children Understand and Interact With Alzheimer’s Patients
If your family is experiencing Alzheimer’s disease and you are struggling to help your children understand, don’t despair. Here are some ways you can help your children cope with the changes your loved one is experiencing.
Getting Comfortable With Alzheimer’s
Kids today are so much smarter so your best course of action is to be very frank with them about this disease. Honest information will help them understand and it may even prevent them from feeling the discomfort that children often feel when they interact with someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Be careful to stress it is the disease which has changed grandma or grandpa. Also be sure they understand it is not contagious.
Age Appropriate Comfort Zone
Help children find empathy by allowing them to interact with their grandparent on the level which they feel most comfortable. If the changes are too upsetting, allowing your young child to color a picture or a similar age appropriate activity rather than forcing closer contact might be more comforting, for example. A teenager might be interested in making a video or recording as much of their grandparent’s oral history and even some of the funny things they will inevitably say.
Dealing With Embarrassment, Guilt, Fear
As your children interact with Alzheimer’s disease, try to keep in mind that no matter their age they lack the emotional processing skills to cope with seeing their loved one like this. Help you child find healthy options to express what they are feeling. Face those emotions with them but never scold or belittle them for their awkward feelings. If your child is unable to deal with their grandparent, it will give rise to many negative emotions and professional counseling may be best.
It Takes A Village
If your children are interested, involve them in their loved one’s care. By allowing your kids to comb hair or tie shoes, they may be able to find a new level of closeness with their grandparent. Encourage them to find ways to serve their loved one. However, be extremely careful to avoid forcing caregiving tasks on to your children unless they are comfortable and only as long as your loved one is stable enough for safe interaction. By teaching your children to serve, they can begin to forge a new relationship with their loved one and create new memories for when they are gone.
Dealing with Alzheimer’s disease is frightening so do not try to figure it out on your own. There are a myriad of resources available. Also make sure you have a support system away from your family so when stress levels rise you have a safe outlet. A counselor or support group may also help your children process the changes too.