It’s tough to deliver the news that a beloved grandparent has Alzheimer’s disease. But no one ever expects to have to tell his or her own children that a parent has been diagnosed with dementia.
But it happens.
About 10% of people under 65 will have a dementia, says Jan Dougherty, RN, director of Family and Community Services for Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.
With the number of parents having children over 40, adds Dougherty, chances are that if a parent does develop early onset dementia, they may have adolescents or teens in the home.
No matter if it is a parent or a grandparent, kids are embarrassed by the changes they are seeing, says Dougherty, so finding others who are in similar situations can be very helpful. Children and adults can become easily overwhelmed by the disruption that a dementia diagnosis can cause.
It’s important for parents and caregivers to be open and honest with children in any situation where rapid and significant change, such as memory loss, is likely to occur, says Cardon Children’s Child Life Specialist Courtney Kissel. That helps to maintain a trusting relationship.
Explaining a diagnosis to younger children about a parent- or a grandparent – can be a challenge.
One of the tips Kissel recommends is to ask the child to picture the memories that the person has in list form, written on a chalkboard that will, over time, be erased. The more recent memories at the top of the chalkboard will disappear first, and the memories from the early years of life at the bottom of the chalkboard will be the last to fade away.
A workshop, sponsored by the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, aims to help families to come together to learn more about dementia and how to cope with the changes.
Dougherty hopes that her team will identify some ways to keep kids and families connected on an ongoing basis –so they won’t feel alone.
Kids, Families and Dementia Workshop
Saturday, March 31
Franciscan Renewal Center, 5802 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, AZ
Families participating in this workshop with their children will gain age-appropriate information about Alzheimer’s disease/related dementias, explore methods to provide age-appropriate support for kids living with a person with dementia, identify ways for adults and children to stay connected to the person with dementia, join with others in like situations and explore ongoing ways to stay connected and supported.
Family of 3 or more: $25
Pre-registration is required for the conference. The deadline is March 26. Call: 602-839-6850 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.