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We want to protect our children through as much of life’s hard edges as we can. We don’t want them to get hurt. However, they are going to face difficulty in the world, including unfairness. Some families are facing the unfairness of having a loved one battling dementia or Alzheimer’s, often a grandmother or grandfather. If you’re living with that difficulty, how do you make sure your children are equipped to handle it as healthily as possible?
Don’t try to hide it from them
You may have the notion to keep your children unaware of their grandparent’s condition. Indeed, if they’re young enough, they might not understand even if you could explain it. However, if they are old enough to understand changes in behavior, it’s better to let them know now. For teenagers or older children, you should talk to them in the clearest terms about what is happening. In time, the changes in their grandparent’s behavior are likely to become all the clearer. It can be more painful to deal with those changes on the fly as opposed to having some minor warning, at least. What’s more, if they’re old enough to start suspecting things on their own, they may instead feel resentment or distrust towards you if they perceived you hid it. Learn to talk about Alzheimer’s and dementia with your kids to help them cope with the changes as they happen.
Get help when you need it
Dementia and Alzheimer’s don’t just affect the person living with the condition. It affects the whole family. This is especially true if you live with the grandparent or question or spend a lot of time caring for them. Stress can manifest in your own behavior and in the family if you are stretching yourself too thin. Finding help through dementia care services, whether it’s a facility or a caregiver, can take a lot of the strain off the family. Otherwise, your children will be impacted not just by their grandparent’s illness, but the changes in your behavior.
Remember how important it is to be family together
Cognitive decline may start to change the nature of your children’s relationship with their grandparent. But the relationship should never be defined by the disease alone. Visits for the sake of visiting, not just checking up on them or providing care, but spending family time together, are important. Social activity has been shown to have positive effects in fighting the symptoms of dementia, after all. It’s important to spend time with your kids as they cope with the difficulties ahead, too. You might be able to catch the warning signs of troubling behavior and help them learn how to cope with it healthily. Otherwise, some of the longest term impacts can catch you off-guard.
With dementia and Alzheimer’s, there is no easy way to face it. However, we can find the positive and focus on it, and make sure that we survive it as a family. To do that, you have to be frank with yourself, your children, and the reality of their grandparent’s situation.