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How to Help Your Child Cope With A Grandparent's Memory Disorder

26 July 2021

The bond between a grandchild and a grandparent is precious, and it can be extremely upsetting if one of their grandparents has been diagnosed with a serious memory disorder. Explaining the reasons behind behavioral changes can be difficult, and your child may feel a range of emotions from confusion and sadness to anger. It is important that you do everything you can to help your child process their feelings. Here is a guide that will enable you to help your child cope with their grandparent’s diagnosis.

What is a Memory Disorder?

Loved ones with a memory disorder may experience an impact on their recall, cognition, reasoning, communication, and decision-making abilities. Memory disorders occur due to a number of reasons, such as genetics, trauma, aging, substance abuse, and, as a result, of other untreated diseases. It can have a huge impact on young kids and, depending on the disorder, it can either appear suddenly, or it can be progressive. Two common types of memory disorders are Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease usually appears in people in their mid-60s, and it is a progressive memory disorder with no known cure. If the grandparent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, one of the first things your child may notice is memory loss. Other symptoms include difficulty with finding words during a conversation, reasoning and judgment impairment, and issues with spatial awareness. It is a debilitating disease that affects 5.5 million people in the United States, and it is the most common cause of dementia.

Many people get confused when the topic of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia crop up. In order to help your child understand their grandparent’s disorder better, it is important for you to understand the different terms. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, and it is also a type of dementia too. In fact, dementia actually refers to a group of symptoms that are associated with a progressive decline in brain function. Dementia usually appears in older adults, and it can cause their mental and mobility functions, their cognitive skills, and their memory to deteriorate. Besides Alzheimer’s disease, there are many other types of dementia. Common types include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia. Furthermore, it is also possible for a person suffering from dementia to have two types of dementia in their brain; this is called mixed dementia.

Educate Your Child About Memory Disorders

Learning that one of your parents, or your partner’s parents, has got a memory disorder can be incredibly unsettling. From the viewpoint of a small child, it can be even worse. Not only do they have to go through the experience of a grandparent acting differently, but they will also pick up emotional changes in you and your partner too. If your child is at the age where they notice memory disorder symptoms, you should try to educate them about the situation to help them understand what is happening to their loved one. Children who are not correctly educated may become confused about the changes around them. This could result in disinterest in everyday activities, and they may even act out in frustration. If your child is young, you can simply give them the gist of the illness. A senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute, Tiffany Chow, offers an effective explanation about dementia for young kids. She says you can explain by telling them, ‘when you’re sick, you might have a fever or a cough. Grandma’s brain is sick. She has an illness that affects how her brain works’. This simple explanation is easy for young children to understand, and you won’t have to go into detail about the condition.

Tell your Children about the Changes to Expect

When people start to suffer from memory disorders, they generally have two options concerning their place of living. The first is to remain at home. Some people remain in their homes alone, and some may employ in-home caregivers to help them with everyday activities. In other cases, the older person lives with a loved one, like you and your kids.

If you find yourself caring for a loved one who has recently been given their diagnosis, you should gently explain to your child the changes they may see. Caring for a loved one with a memory disorder can take a lot of time and effort. Your child could end up feeling neglected and jealous. By communicating to your child, you can prepare them for the worst, and this could reduce negative feelings for their grandparent.

Let Your Children Visit them Regularly

If your loved one has severe symptoms, they could benefit from memory care services. Memory care is a type of senior living facility that is geared towards older people with memory disorders. Brandywine Living provides memory care services with professionally trained staff and licensed nurses. Brandywine Reflections at Brick is a fantastic choice for people living in the area. At this facility, residents receive round-the-clock care by onsite staff. Residents benefit from being part of a wider community of other older people, and they can participate in Brandywine’s care and engagement program. Within this community, your loved one will not only be well taken care of, but they will have access to vibrant social events that will help them maintain their sense of self. On top of this, families are encouraged to visit and get involved. This means your child will get to see their grandparent thrive in their new home regularly.

Help Them Cope With Their Emotions

Understandably, your child will have questions about their grandparent’s memory disorder, especially when they are around their loved one while they display changes in their behavior. It is essential that you tell your child that their loved one is acting this way due to their disorder and that it isn’t personal. Encourage your child to ask questions, and you can also provide them with literature that is suitable for their age group. Providing your child with everything they need to develop positive coping mechanisms can help them cope with their grandparent’s disorder and enable them to remain comfortable around them.

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