Prepare Children to Adapt to Future Changes that Occur in Life

Apr 22, 2024

Reasons to Educate Children about Alzheimer's Disease

#1 - So that children will be comfortable around and interacting with a person who has Alzheimer’s (See January’s Blog)
#2 - Teaching children compassion (See February’s Blog)
#3 - Creating a schedule teaches children how to create a safe supportive environment in which they can thrive (See March’s Blog)

April Reason #4: To prepare children to adapt to future changes that occur in life.

When families know what to expect with the diagnosis and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, the whole family, including the children, are more prepared. Learning to adapt to change and be flexible is an important life skill for children to learn. 

It’s a shock when a loved one is initially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, not only to the person diagnosed but to the whole family. The diagnosis changes everything and children may not be aware of what this means, but they know all the adults are acting differently. It’s important to bring children into the conversation about the diagnosis and what it means to the entire family. 

Story: Alder’s mom was diagnosed with Mild Stage Alzheimer’s disease in a rehabilitation facility where she was recovering from a back operation. Her mom became very withdrawn and inactive. She had cared for a family member with Alzheimer’s and knew the ramifications of her own diagnosis. 

It was summertime and the grandchildren came to visit their Gran in the rehabilitation facility. Alder was concerned how her mom was going to react on that first visit with the children. It turned out Alder had nothing to worry about. When the children went into the room, their Gran’s face lit up. The staff encouraged interaction. Alder and the children took a tour of the facility with Gran. After that visit, Gran was inspired and put more effort into her rehabilitation so she could get home to spend quality time with the grandchildren. 

Alder explained to the grandchildren how the relationship with their Gran will change. For example, Alder’s mom would no longer be able to take care of the grandchildren by herself or drive them anywhere. To soften this blow, they also discussed ways in which to maintain the relationship throughout the course of the disease. Explaining to the grandchildren how the diagnosis will affect their relationship with their Gran prepared them to adapt to future changes in her.  

Information: When someone is initially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they’re most likely in the Mild Stage (also referred to as the Early Stage) of Alzheimer’s disease. This stage lasts two to four years. The changes aren’t noticeable initially, but as time progresses they become more evident. The most common changes in this stage are:

  • getting lost going to familiar places 
  • forgetting names  
  • forgetting where they put things
  • getting easily frustrated 

Most people in the Mild Stage are advised not to drive anymore. This can be a big change for the person with Alzheimer’s and for the family. 

Tips: During the Mild Stage is the time to explain Alzheimer’s disease to the children. Encourage them to introduce themselves and their relationship to the person at every visit: “Hi, I’m Jack and I’m your grandson.” 

Be honest about the symptoms. Let them know their loved one may not be able to do the things they used to do. Explain to the children their loved one will have trouble learning new things so avoid trying to teach them a new video game. Stick with familiar activities. Tell them situations when it’s important to get a responsible adult.

But, also remind them of things the person still can do. Talk with your child about ways in which they can continue a relationship with their loved one as the disease progresses.

Activities: People in Mild Stage Alzheimer’s can do most of the things they did pre-diagnosis. The following are a few familiar activities children can still do with their loved one. 

  • Preparing meals: Encourage the children to help their loved one in the kitchen. They can have fun together making favorite dishes and cleaning up after.
  • Playing board games: A game like Chutes and Ladders might be more appropriate than Monopoly.
  • EnJOYing music: Listen to music together, or dance and sing familiar songs. Stick with songs the person knows and don’t try to teach them a new song.
  • Starting a memory book: Compiling a photo album or scrapbook is a fun activity children and a loved one can do together. The memory book will be a wonderful tool for engaging conversation throughout the course of the disease. 

Plan events and activities for the future to maintain the relationship as the child grows and the person who has Alzheimer’s continues to change. There will be more about preserving memories in the May blog.

Action: Keep this information at your fingertips. Download our free PDF on Mild Stage Alzheimer’s Disease. Watch our video of Brenda and Alder talking about Mild Stage Alzheimer’s disease

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