Holiday Helpers – Explaining dementia to little kids

If your holiday schedule includes quality time with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, and you have young tots in tow, there are steps to avoid feeling like everyone is having a meltdown.

  1. Try to visit the person who has Alzheimer’s or dementia when he or she will be at their very best. It may be impossible to synch that time with when your little one will be calm and quiet so go for the one out of two strategy.
  2. Try to explain what dementia is to your child in an age-appropriate way. You can say how Grandma or Grandpa may look the same as they used to, but they are forgetting stuff all the time. And sometimes, that makes them feel upset or cranky, like So and So from your TV show or your music class.
  3. It’s mutually beneficial to try to engage the child with the person with Alzheimer’s. Younger kids will be looking at how you act and react, so try to keep it light and fun so they aren’t stressed unnecessarily. It could be worth trying simple activities together like reading or basic art projects (nothing too messy, meaning no glitter).
  4. If the person with dementia gets frustrated and starts getting angry or unkind, it’s time to wrap the playdate and be sure to let your child know that they didn’t do anything wrong.

For extra reading, here’s a good resource on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias care, research, and support.