Five and a half million American adults are
afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, a sneaky, vicious degenerative
neurological disease that gradually strips a person of their
memories, their sense of self, and eventually, their life. This
figure is projected to triple by 2050.
Alzheimer's is scary stuff, but adults are not the only
ones affected. Children who love someone with Alzheimer's need
information and reassurance, the sooner the better. Kids can sense
when "something is up," so it's best to address concerns before
they come to their own conclusions about why Grandma forgot their
Keep it simple. Explain that Alzheimer's causes people to
lose their memories and to get confused. Older children can
typically handle more details than younger children, for whom
examples like, "You know how Grandma sometimes forgets things we
tell her?" can be especially helpful. As the disease progresses,
you may want to help your child anticipate that their loved one may
not recognizing them.
No matter how you break the news, your child may have a
lot of feelings about it. He may worry that you could be diagnosed
with Alzheimer's, feel anxious or scared about changes in their
loved one's behavior or personality, and even envy the attention
given to the person with Alzheimer's. These feelings are all
perfectly natural, and kids need to hear this.
Be on the lookout for other clues about their feelings,
including behavioral problems, difficulty focusing on schoolwork,
withdrawing from family activities and even complaining about
physical symptoms. Ask your child how he's doing with the changes
in his loved one and enlist the aid of a counselor or his favorite
teacher if you need extra support.
As their loved one's condition declines, your child may
feel self-conscious about being in public with him or her. If this
person lives with your family, your child may even be reluctant to
have friends visit. This is OK. Make other plans, but just make
sure he has time with his peers and feels permitted to confide in
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.