We know firsthand how tough it is to talk with kids about a grandparent’s Alzheimer’s. People of all ages have difficulty understanding this debilitating disease.

Making time to explain what is happening to children is important. A grandparent or other senior family member may seem fine then suddenly become confused and a little paranoid. The unpredictability of the disease can be frightening for children.

What are some tips Michigan family caregivers can use to explain Alzheimer’s disease to children?

Talking with Children about a Michigan Senior’s Alzheimer’s Disease

Here are a few suggestions that may help the conversation go more smoothly.

1. Sit Down together as a family: Find a time for everyone in the family to sit down together when you won’t be interrupted. Explain the disease in its simplest terms. Be sure to educate your children on behaviors their grandparent is currently exhibiting. Don’t make the mistake of getting too far ahead in the disease process yet. You can tackle more advanced signs of the disease once the kids have an opportunity to digest the basics of Alzheimer’s disease.

One reminder is to make it clear to your children that Alzheimer’s is a disease and the disease is responsible for the changes in their grandparent (or senior loved one). Also be sure the kids understand that Alzheimer’s isn’t contagious like the flu or a cold. The idea that a parent or sibling might “catch it” might be frightening to them.

2. Talk about Communication: Another factor to talk about with your kids is how to communicate. For example, explain to them that they should approach their grandparent from the front. This is because Alzheimer’s often causes damage to a person’s peripheral vision. If an older adult living with Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t see you coming, they may be startled and strike out in fear. Also share with your kids how important it is to use a calm voice and to avoid making loud noises around the family member who has Alzheimer’s.

3. Video Series: A video library created by the Alzheimer’s Association, Kids Look at Alzheimer’s Disease, can be a great resource. This video project features children and teenagers talking about how a loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease has impacted their own life. One series was created for video series is for teens and the other for younger children.

4. Encourage Honesty: During your conversation with your children, encourage them to be open and honest about their feelings. For example, their feelings may be hurt because their grandfather was short-tempered with them or they are embarrassed by an unusual behavior of their grandmother’s. They might even being feeling frightened. Remind your kids not to feel guilty and encourage them to share whatever it is they are feeling with you so you can talk through it together.

5. Fun Times Remain: Finally, help your child understand that there are still activities and projects they can do with a grandparent despite the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Create a list of activities the two generations can safely enjoy together to share when you talk with your family. 101 Activities from the Alzheimer’s Association is a great resource to use when you are creating your list.

Memory Care in Michigan

When the time comes and you need to find a Memory Care program in Michigan, please remember Heritage Senior Communities. The Terrace is our personalized dementia care program. Call the senior living community nearest to you, to arrange a personal tour.


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