It can be hard for children to watch a loved one age, particularly when dementia is involved.
Over 5 million Americans are currently living with dementia and that number is expected to increase as the population ages. Dementia impairs a person’s memory and cognition and can affect other senses such as sight, hearing, and balance.
Nearly half of adults between the ages of 40 and 50 are doing double-time in the caregiver role. For those adults caring for children and an elderly loved one at the same time, moments can be challenging. The children of these caregivers may be involved in the care of the elder and may have many questions – particularly when behavior does not seem “normal” to the child.
Explaining why a grandparent or even a parent with dementia is acting differently to a youngster can be challenging but the best and easiest way is to be clear and direct. Children are fearful when they do not know what to expect but you can help them build reasonable expectations which will ease their anxiety.
The child needs to understand that dementia is a disease of a failing memory and thinking processes. You can explain that lack of memory causes the loved one to act child-like in some ways and that that lack of memory may cause behaviors such as:
The child you care for should be reassured that all of these behaviors are “normal” in someone with dementia. He or she needs to be told that no matter what the elder says, it is not the child’s fault.
Helping a child understand dementia can go a long way towards making him comfortable and able to continue to love and support the grandparent as he can.