- 1 Explaining Alzheimer’s Disease to children
Every July 26th Grandparents Day is celebrated to pay tribute to the vital role grandparents play in families. At NeuronUP, we would like to take this opportunity to discuss the difficult task of explaining Alzheimer’s disease to children .
It is undeniable that explaining Alzheimer’s to children is no simple task. Children may not understand why their grandparent, who once used to take care of them, picked them up from school or gave them a snack, can no longer do those things. Therefore, the first thing we should do is to explain to the child what is happening to their grandparent in language that is suitable for the child’s age.
Explaining Alzheimer’s Disease to children
What is Alzheimer’s?
“Your grandpa (or grandma) has Alzheimer’s, a disease that causes the brain to forget things.” But Alzheimer’s is not just memory loss, and the child needs to be able to understand all the other symptoms little by little.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s with which children should be familiarized
This type of dementia usually starts slowly, first affecting the parts of the brain responsible for memory, thinking, and language. Over time, these symptoms worsen up to the point that people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease fail to recognize their closest relatives, including their grandchildren. At this moment, children will most likely feel sad, so it is important to explain to them that it is not their grandparent’s fault, but the illness that causes them to forget. There may wellcome a time when their grandparent will forget how to dress or groom him/ herself and we must explain to the children in order to help them.
In addition to the distinctive memory problems, patients with Alzheimer’s disease develop other symptoms such as changes in reasoning skills, aphasia, apraxia, deficits in visuospatial abilities, and changes in mood and personality.
Will my grandparent’s Alzheimer’s be cured?
Other common questions the child may ask throughout the illness are: Can Alzheimer’s be prevented? What is the treatment for Alzheimer’s? Will my grandma be cured? Or will my grandpa die from Alzheimer’s?
Children need to be told that there is currently no drug that can reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. However, it is a good idea to talk about the fact that there are medications and activities for people with Alzheimer’s which delay the progression of the disease, especially in early to moderate stages.
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Spend time with your grandparent
“Just because grandpa has Alzheimer’s does not mean he cannot spend time with you.” Specialists insist that loved ones with Alzheimer’s benefit from our love and visits. Here you can read more about the relationship between memory and Alzheimer´s.
Watering the plants or working on puzzles are common everyday activities that a grandchild and grandparent can do together.
Comic to explain Alzheimer’s disease to children
With the goal of helping children to understand Alzheimer’s, we recommend the comic Alzheimer’s: What’s the matter with grandpa? which is aimed at young people between 10 and 16 years old.
The comic’s author, Mercè Boada, is a neurologist and director of the ACE Foundation of the Catalan Institute of Applied Neurosciences (Barcelona, Spain).The comic tells the story of Ramón, a grandfather who begins to exhibit early signs of the disease and his grandson, Julio, who is spending a few days with him during the summer.
Throughout its 18 pages, the 13-year-old teenager realizes that his grandfather is disoriented, forgetful, and somewhat strange. That’s when he tries to find out what Alzheimer’s is and looks for a way to help him.
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