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On September 21, we celebrate World Alzheimer’s Day to raise awareness of the impact of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia on loved ones afflicted and on family members and friends impacted by their diagnoses. Have you heard that Alzheimer’s disease has been called the “family” disease because of the difficult impacts it can have on the afflicted person’s family members and friends? Often, those family members and friends include children. By helping kids through this process and encouraging them to continue interacting with a loved one diagnosed with the disease, you can help foster empathy and compassion while bringing joy to all impacted.

There are many ways to promote understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease with young children. It can be important to help ensure that young kids understand that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are diseases that tend to occur in life as people get older. Explain that kids cannot spread the disease and are unlikely to contract the disease themselves. If kids know that they cannot “catch” Alzheimer’s they may be less likely to be afraid of spending time with the diagnosed loved one, and less concerned that they might have done something to cause the disease.

Kids may have questions that they are reluctant to ask Mom or Dad. If that is the case, get in touch with a school counselor or ask their pediatrician for a recommendation. Giving your kids an outlet where they can go to voice their fears without concern for Mom and Dad’s feelings may increase their sense of control in their own lives, and help ensure things do not stay bottled up.

Spending time with young children often brings joy to a family member affected by Alzheimer’s, even if they no longer recognize their familial relationship with these children, who may be their grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Bring your kids to spend an afternoon with their grandparent or other loved one and encourage them to simply play and engage in regular activities like arts and crafts. Your loved one with Alzheimer’s may even want to join them in doing a craft or a puzzle. Just make sure to explain to your kids that their loved one may get frustrated easily, and it can be okay if you or another caregiver gently ends the activity if it becomes overwhelming.

For more guidance on helping a loved one with Alzheimer’s as well as impacted family members, please reach out to our office.