Dementia explained to children

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The mission – the area of passion – of this part of the site is to explain dementia to children. But more, to spread understanding of and compassion for the person who is living with the dementia. They were once someone’s baby.

Young children have immense capacity to accept anyone for who they are. Youngsters are untouched by prejudice until taught it by adults.

I have pre-empted seventeen questions that children may ask about dementia, and thirteen that they may want to ask but daren’t.

WHY DOESN’T GRANNY KNOW ME NOW? : my ebook with three short, engaging and amusing rhymes with accompanying text to help you explain dementia to children and allow them the space to express their own fears and concerns.

Many years ago, I was at a forum which was debating how to improve understanding and acceptance of those with dementia. Apparently, they debate this question every year.

I suggested that instead of approaching adults, primary schools could be given the opportunity to educate the population of the future.

Would they regard dementia as an important enough subject? Possibly not. But, you know, they would be wrong! I am convinced that schools could be persuaded to include dementia awareness as part of their commitment to the community.

My suggestion was accepted enthusiastically – but probably ignored.

AND…what’s the betting that the forum is still debating the question whilst the children they could have reached have grown up already!

So, how do you explain dementia to children?

If you don’t explain dementia to children, they’ll make up their own answers …

Children need to be informed about dementia or they will make up their own answers

You tell them as much truth as they can deal with. If you don’t tell them, they will make up their own answers. Better to be honest than to keep updating half-truths and sugar coated fibs.

Children are more accepting of situations and difficulties if they are not frightened. Being treated with respect brings out the best in them.

What do children need to know about dementia?

Dementia is brain damage. The main symptom is memory loss. Those are the basics. The brain damage can have different causes – for example, disease (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease), vascular damage (e.g.stroke), brain abnormalities (e.g.frontotemporal dementia) or alcohol/drug abuse (Wernike/Korsakoff syndrome). It can be mild, and it can worsen until the brain works solely to keep the person alive. The memory loss can be as small as forgetting names or words right through to an inability to recall anything at all. How much information can your child absorb and deal with – you must decide how much of the truth to impart.

If a child asks a question that you cannot answer, tell them that you don’t know. Admit that! Then talk to them about their question. Find out exactly what they want to know. Sometimes, a single question hides a multitude of worries and unspoken fears.

If the question is something that has been bothering you too, ask a professional. It is all too easy to assume that nothing will change, nothing can be done, and you struggle on. Ask…pull in as much help and advice as you can. And keep children as informed as you think is beneficial for them. Allow their questions to prompt how much you tell them.

What do children REALLY need to know about dementia?

What most children need to know is that they are safe.

A child’s world is centred around its stable adults. If those adults are showing signs of disquiet or distress, then that world is threatened. In addition, they may be witnessing a elder acting out of character. The person with dementia may be a relative that they have known prior to symptoms developing. It also can be frightening to see an adult being unpredictable.

If the child is feeling threatened, they may try to gain attention as they try to re-establish their sense of normality. Or they may withdraw and hide in their own world. It is easy to miss signs of unease in the child amidst the worry of caring for someone with dementia. Make sure you check in with youngsters and give them quality time. It will do you good too!

And more…

Some children can be naturally frightened of adults who act strangely. Although children accept a variety of behaviours from their peers, they may not be as comfortable with an adult who doesn’t make them feel safe.

Children and people with dementia however have traits in common – they react emotionally to any problem and they must have help to meet their basic needs. The major difference of course is that children are capable of learning. And are also capable of astounding generosity of spirit once they understand what is going on.

How do I tell my child about dementia?

The difficulty is giving them that explanation in terms that they can process.

Explaining dementia  to a child can be a balancing act between giving understanding and yet not scaring them. Plus, often, the adult giving the explanation is emotionally involved…bordering on exhausted!

Maybe the questions have been non-stop. Maybe the child has been trying to regain your attention. This on top of caring for or worrying about someone who has dementia. How can you answer a child’s questions when you do not have the answers yourself?

Explaining dementia to children Why Doesn't Granny Know Me Now?

This book uses three short rhymes to gently introduce dementia to children of primary school age – although it is vital that children of all ages, from 5 to 95, talk about it! At just £3.99, it could change the way you look at dementia. It will certainly get you and your children on the same page and in a space where conversation is both ways.

Why am I so passionate about informing children about dementia?

A mother of three, I have worked as a Dementia Care Coach and a Primary School Dinner Lady. I may not know your exact situation, but I will have been asked some of the questions that you are being asked…or that you may have yourself.

My ebook can help open doors to honest and frank conversations between parents or teachers and children. It is better to have that communication than to deal with the aftermath of a confused and frightened child.

My aim is to encourage open dialogue between adults and children. And moreover, to offer child-friendly explanations to what is sometimes a difficult situation.

I am passionate about emotional well-being. It is important that youngsters learn that having dementia does not mean that the person cannot feel. Especially that no-one should lose their dignity along with their memory. I believe that some of my intense passion is that my lovely Granma (sic) suffered several strokes which removed much of who she was. At the time, I had no training, no insight, no way of understanding what was going on. I wish I had studied more, asked more, done more. But this was “back in the day” when information was not available at the click of a button. My children were very young then. Two were frightened of this strange lady. The one who totally accepted Granma as she was…that child is now a nursing sister!

Children’s questions about dementia