Talking to Kids About Alzheimer’s: Advice for Families in Northern Michigan
My father-in-law was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Our children have grown especially close to him since he took an early retirement about five years ago and moved to Gaylord, Michigan to be nearer to us. He attends all of their soccer games and softball games. They go to his house to visit several times a week. While I’m sure they’ve noticed some of his recent unusual behaviors, at 7 and 9 years old they haven’t paid much attention to it. Now my husband and I are wondering when to break this news to them and how to explain what Alzheimer’s disease is. Can you offer us any advice?
Denise in Gaylord, Michigan
I’m so sorry to learn about your father-in-law’s diagnosis. You are right in trying to prepare now for this conversation. Alzheimer’s disease really does have an impact on the entire family, especially when beloved grandparents live nearby and spend considerable time with the grandkids.
Fortunately, the experts at the Alzheimer’s Association have developed a great resource center Kids & Teens on their website. There you will find everything from worksheets that help you show your children what Alzheimer’s disease is and how it affects the body to videos from kids and teens who have a loved one with the disease. In many cases, the stories are told by children and teens themselves.
The site also has an interactive Brain Tour that is helpful in showing how a normal brain works and the damage Alzheimer’s causes.
Finally, another resource you might find helpful is the book, What’s Happening to Grandpa? It was written by Maria Shriver for her children when her own father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
I hope these resources help you prepare for this difficult conversation with your children. If you have any other questions about memory loss or dementia care, please call The Brook community closest to you for help!