Dementia Support

How to Explain Dementia to Children

October 6, 2020

Children have a strong understanding of the world around them. However, when it comes to explaining an illness like dementia, it may be difficult for your child to understand what it means for both their loved one and for themselves.

Having an open dialogue with your child is the best way to go. Beating around the bush or lying can make this difficult time harder for your child.

However, knowing the right things to say and do isn’t easy, especially if you’re dealing with younger children. To help, we’ve created a guide to help you explain dementia to your children.

Be honest and truthful

“What is dementia?”

It’s a question that your child is bound to ask sooner or later — and when it comes to answering, honesty is always the best policy. Children notice more than we often give them credit for, and it won’t be long before they start to pick up on the little things, such as snippets of conversation or paperwork.  

As a result, it’s better to be honest from the beginning.

While you won’t need to go into specifics — especially with younger children — it’s important to let them know what exactly is happening.

One of the best ways to handle this difficult conversation is to sit down with your child and explain that their loved one has dementia. Then, explain to them what this might mean and how, unlike the colds and stomach bugs they’re used to, this is permanent.

For older children, you may want to explain some of the early signs of dementia or dementia symptoms that they can expect. This will help them prepare better.

Remind them that their loved one is still a person

Once your child is aware of their loved one’s condition, it may be difficult for them to see past dementia at first. This is especially true for younger children with loved ones who have more advanced dementia symptoms.

As a result, you may find that your child is afraid of their loved one. While it’s important to take your child’s feelings into consideration without invalidating them, you should also encourage your child to feel comfortable with their loved one.

One of the best ways to do this is to plan activities that will help your child recognize that their loved one is still the same person they’ve always been, even with dementia.

A senior woman playing a card gamewith two children
Simple, hands on activities are preferred

Plan activities that children can do with their loved ones

When it comes to allowing your child to visit their loved one with dementia, it’s best to prepare them to handle most of the conversations. Let them know this is perfectly okay and encourage them to keep the conversation going — whether they’re talking about what they learned in school, a new pet or even the party they went to a few days prior with their friends.

To help your child feel more comfortable with their loved one, you can also plan some activities for them to participate in. Hands-on activities with few steps are the best.

If you’re needing some inspiration, here are popular activities:

  • Colouring
  • Puzzles
  • Listening to music
  • Drawing
  • Singing

Final Thoughts

During this difficult time, you’ll want to be there for your child. As a result, you may want to seek round the clock care for your loved one with dementia.

At Tea and Toast, we’re dedicated to making this process as easy as possible for you and your loved one. Our trained advisors will work with you through the entire process to make sure your loved one is comfortable and content.

Tea and Toast - retirement living experts, contact us today.

Read next

Recommended read