Explaining Dementia to Children

There was recently this article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about an unlikely connection between children and elders living with dementia reaping huge rewards for all involve

When we talk about the way dementia affects the whole family, we usually are referring to a caregiver daughter or the spouse of someone who lives with dementia. But these aren’t the only family members affected; dementia can also have a big impact on kids. With 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s—a number only expected to rise—dementia is something ALL kids should understand, even if they don’t have a family member with the disease. 

Dementia Resources Aimed at Kids

Kids, of course, come in all ages and with differing levels of comprehension, so we need to have different ways of explaining dementia. Luckily, there are some great resources that can help with this task, some of which KinderCare used to prepare the kids for symptoms they might see in their new friends at the Clare Bridge community. .

With younger kids, it can often be rewarding to read books with them that feature storylines about dementia. (Although, after spending time with my four-year-old niece this past weekend, I think if we could embed a dementia storyline in the next Frozen movie, we would be set!) One highly recommended book is Maria Shriver’s What’s Happening to Grandpa? a beautiful read for any child from kindergarten to the fourth grade level. Faraway Grandpa, by Roberta Karim, is also a nice book for this age group. For older kids and teens, the Alzheimer’s Association’s website is a great place to start. The site features videos that explain how the brain works as well as ones that show how kids can help in the fight for a cure. On top of this, they highlight an interactive tour through the brain of a person affected by Alzheimer’s.

The goal of these resources as well as our intergenerational program is to support kids in becoming more comfortable around dementia. It’s also to help them understand the changes in family members, neighbors, or family friends who are living with dementia. I believe that talking about the disease with kids now will go a long way to paving the road for greater understanding in the future. I also have faith that a group of young people in Minneapolis will always remember their special friends from childhood who showed them how they could learn from someone living with dementia.

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