How to tell children ‘Grandpa has Alzheimer’s disease’


It’s best to keep it simple. For instance, you could tell a young child that “grandpa has a disease that makes it tough on him to remember things,” as opposed to, say, the Merriam-Webster definition: “a degenerative brain disease of unknown cause … that results in progressive memory loss, impaired thinking, disorientation, and changes in personality and mood, that leads in advanced cases to a profound decline in cognitive and physical functioning, and that is marked histologically by the degeneration of brain neurons especially in the cerebral cortex and by the presence of neurofibrillary tangles and plaques containing beta-amyloid.”

This intelligence can sadden and anger the child, and even make him or her feel guilty that something he or she did may have harmed his or her loved one. Comfort the child and assure them that their relative’s condition is not their fault. A child should not be expected to be a caregiver for a person who has Alzheimer’s disease – they should be able to play and study and have their own interests and needs. Speaking of which, you should make an effort to set aside your caregiver duties for a while and spend quality time with the child, so that he or she does not feel they are being neglected on account of their ill relative.

On the other hand, the child’s interaction with the Alzheimer’s patient can be beneficial to both parties. The child will emulate your behavior around the aged relative; therefore, talk to the care receiver to show the child that it is okay to do so, at least in the early stages of the disease. Moreover, grandchildren and grandparent can perform certain activities together, such as walking in the neighborhood, simple arts and crafts, playing music, singing, looking through photo albums, and reading stories aloud, while you supervise them.

As the condition progresses, however, and the patient becomes unresponsive, the child might react badly. Negative feelings are often internalized and manifested in the form of problems at school, at home, or with friends. A school counselor or social worker may help the child understand what’s going on and how to deal. Teenagers may especially oppose the idea that the person they knew and loved is slipping away, and as a result avoid being around that person. Forcing them to spend time with the Alzheimer’s disease patient could be counterproductive. Family members and/or respite care can come to the rescue if the stress of having a relative with Alzheimer’s becomes too much to endure for the child.