Understanding Alzheimer’s is difficult for most adults. And explaining a complex disease like dementia to a child, can be even more of a challenge. That challenge is magnified when the loved the one suffering from Alzheimer’s as a grandparent.
Children have fond memories of grandmothers and grandfathers. Traveling back-and forth to their homes for the holidays, times spent cooking or fishing together – even listening to familiar stories passed down through the generations. When family members branch out and begin their own lives, grandparents are often the glue that holds everyone together.
They also seem to hold a special place in the hearts of their grandchildren. These memories seem to stay with them forever.
Because they’ve been such an integral part of family life for so long, when loved ones with the disease begin going through some unfamiliar changes, children naturally tend to want to know “what’s happening to grandma?”
So how do you help children better understand the changes your loved one is experiencing, while embracing them at the same time?
Some families opt to share this experience with their children through books designed to help gently facilitate the discussion about dementia.
One author explains that she and her family were really engaged in the process – from being able to spend more time with their loved one to caring for her needs as her symptoms progressed.
Because that experience helped her children develop a more compassionate outlook on dementia, Kathryn Harrison decided to create a picture book titled “Weeds in Nana’s Garden” that would not only raise awareness about the disease, it would also help create a desire for other children to become more involved in the process.
About five years ago, researchers noticed a shortage of books for young people that talked about dementia and how children could participate in their loved one’s journey. Of those that were available, they believed crucial aspects of the disease and its effects were missing. Some of the most unpleasant changes that people with Alzheimer’s often go through such as anger, irritability, the inability to perform daily tasks and the lack of mobility, were never addressed. Authors say avoiding these critical areas, will only serve to feed in to stereotypes about the disease.
Thankfully, the number of authors aspiring to offer insight and guidance to families about dementia is growing. Experts say their hopes are to see books that can tell an authentically engaging story without being grim or scary for children.
Some of the other works Freedom Home Care found that come pretty close include: “The Memory Box,” “Still My Grandma,” “Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip,” “Remember Me…Remember Me Not,” When My Grammy Forgets, I Remember: A Child’s Perspective on Dementia,” and “Lovely Old Lion.”