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5 Helpful Tips for Explaining a Loved One’s Dementia Diagnosis to Children

No matter what age you are, having to understand a loved one’s dementia diagnosis is something that everyone struggles with. Dementia is a diagnosis that impacts the whole family, including the younger members. 

One of the hardest things about having a loved one who has a dementia diagnosis is trying to explain that diagnosis in a way that children or grandchildren will understand. Even for adults, dementia can be hard to fathom. But in the eyes of a child, dementia can feel almost impossible to explain. Here at Serra Sol’s memory care in San Juan Capistrano, we hope that we can be a resource to lean on during difficult conversations like these. However, these are still conversations that you should have privately with your family.

If you’re concerned about how to approach your loved ones dementia diagnosis with their children or grandchildren, here are a few tips that might help:

1. Know When to Start Talking About It

Dementia is something that you’re not going to be able to hide from your children for long. While they may not understand what exactly is wrong, children are intuitive enough to figure out that something is different about grandma, or grandpa than the last time they saw them. It isn’t a discussion that they should be left out of.

If their grandparent or loved one is still in good health after their diagnosis, you might want to encourage them to be a part of the conversation. Allow your child to ask questions to the person this disease is affecting. It might not soften the blow, but having their loved one explain it to them themselves can only help in the long run. 

If your loved one is in the later stages of dementia, then your child has definitely noticed the behavior changes. Seniors who struggle with dementia will often have sudden bouts of anger and may have had communication issues like calling your child by a wrong name. If you’ve been around your loved one during these incidents, then you should be sure to have a conversation with your child as soon as possible.

2. Be Honest About What Dementia Is

You should explain exactly what dementia is: it’s a brain disease that affects your loved one’s, memory, emotions, and more. Use examples that your child may have noticed like calling family members by the wrong name, missing appointments, or forgetting how to do basic tasks. 

If you are planning on moving your loved one into senior assisted living or memory care, assure your child that your loved one is being taken care of at a loving, specially trained place like Serra Sol’s memory care in San Juan Capistrano. Their loved one may not be able to care for themselves as well anymore but there are people out there who can help them to live a happy, healthy life.

3. Encourage Your Children to Ask Questions

Dementia diagnosis can be scary, especially for young children who don’t quite understand the enormity of it. To be honest, even adults really struggle with the enormity of the situation that is dementia or Alzheimer’s. As your loved one’s dementia progresses, your child may have follow up questions. Encourage your child to ask questions as they arise. It’s better to have them ask you where you can figure out the answers together, rather than keep it inside and potentially get false information.

Additionally, encouraging your child to ask questions will make it easier to keep the lines of communication open in the future.

4. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Open lines of communication is vital to continue to allow your child to understand dementia. Dementia, while it does have similar characteristics across all diagnoses, is not a one size fits all diagnosis. Everyone who struggles with dementia is going to struggle with it in a different way. One loved one may not struggle with angry outbursts, but another loved one may be angry all the time. When you first receive that diagnosis, you don’t know how it will affect you as it progresses. 

As circumstances change, and the symptoms progress, helping your child to understand that they can always come to you for questions, advice, or even just a shoulder to cry on, is monumentally important. The entire family needs to come together during a trying time like this, and that includes all the children.

5. Encourage Your Child to Still Spend Time With Your Loved One

When your loved one receives a dementia diagnosis, you’ve likely seen the start of behavior changes. These kinds of behavior changes can make it difficult or even scary for a child to spend a lot of time with their loved one. However, once you’re able to have this conversation with them, they’ll feel less scared about what’s going on.

It’s important for them to remember that, even though their loved one may have changed, it’s still their beloved grandma, grandpa, or other loved one inside. It may be hard at first, but encourage them to continue going with you for visits. They may be surprised at a sudden moment of clarity.

Grandfather with young grandson in arms and smiling at son.

Dementia Caregiving at Serra Sol 

When your loved one receives a dementia diagnosis, it can be scary and overwhelming for everyone in the family, including the children. For the adults, you truly realize the enormity of what is going to change. Don’t feel like you have to go through that alone.

At Serra Sol’s memory care in San Juan Capistrano, our specially trained team is here to help you out. We know the ins and outs of caregiving for someone struggling with dementia. Let us be your helping hand to get through this difficult time together.

If you’re interested in seeing what kind of services that Serra Sol provides, contact us today and schedule a tour.