Holiday Helpers – Talking to teens about dementia

Teens are smart and sensitive enough to understand why Grandma or Grandpa may look the same but is acting so differently. If they’ve taken a high school health, physiology or bio class, your teen may have even more questions about the person in your family who has dementia or Alzheimer’s. Here’s how to address your teen’s concerns straight-on:

*Being honest and direct about the situation is optimal. Tell them what Alzheimer’s is when they ask: it’s more than just memory loss, it’s a disease that impacts brain functionality and clear thinking. Eventually, if negatively effects the body functions of a person. And yes, there is a potential genetic component to Alzheimer’s.

*Validate the array of feelings your teen grapples with in the face of Alzheimer’s. Teens may be frustrated by having to repeat words or phrases or hearing the same responses and stories over and over again. Teens may resent the time and energy that someone with dementia requires of the family, then may feel guilty for feeling that way.  Since living with an Alzheimer’s patient is difficult and often unpredictable, teens may not want to have their friends over anymore.

*Keep an eye on your teen to make sure they are not letting the uncertainty and stress of being close to dementia take its toll on them. Warning signs are unusual headaches, a drop in academic performance, a lack of energy and socializing, sharper mood swings and spending more time away from the household. It may be worth looking into a support group or a counselor to speak with your teen to help them sort out the complicated feelings.

For additional resources to help a struggling teen, check out: