How to explain dementia to children

Finding out that a relative or friend has been diagnosed with dementia is an extremely difficult experience. With so many new obstacles to consider, explaining what is happening to children or grandchildren may not be a priority. However, it is very important that the changes in a grandparent are explained to children. We share how to broach this sensitive subject with children and why it is important to do so.

Why dementia needs to be explained to children

We understand that for parents it is a natural instinct to want to protect your child from upsetting situations and broaching a subject so sensitive and complex can be daunting. However, there are a number of reasons why it’s important to talk about dementia with children:

  • Parents understand how perceptive young children are. They are often aware of tensions and changes in your mood, even if they don’t know what has caused them. Explaining what the problem is will help put them at ease.
  • Explaining dementia to children, rather than hiding the problem will show that you trust them to cope with a difficult situation. Learning to deal with painful emotions will make them stronger as they grow older and are faced with other challenges.
  • If a child was particularly close to their grandparent and witnesses a change in their behaviour, they may feel as if they have done something wrong. Explaining why the personality of the person living with dementia has changed allows them to try and become close to that person again, understanding that this change was not caused by them or directed at them

How to explain dementia to children

It’s evidently extremely important to be as honest as possible with children, allowing them to feel comfortable asking questions and speaking openly about their feelings. But how do we raise the subject with children? And explain clearly rather than adding more confusion? At Barchester, we know how important this conversation is. This is why we have put together some useful guides to help children understand dementia. Virginia Ironside, author of several books, seven of which are children’s, has written two short stories for Barchester to help explain dementia to children. One explains a child’s first visit to see their grandad in a residential home and the second a visit to see gran. These story guides are downloadable and include questions which the young person may have about dementia. They are clear, calm and relatable, helping adults with how to phrase talking and answering questions about this sensitive subject. And of course, these stories can be revisited which is extremely useful in reinforcing the message if a child becomes confused.

Dementia care at Barchester

Barchester is an experienced provider of dementia care with dedicated ‘Memory Lane’ communities. Our objectives are always person led; we continue to see the person before we see their dementia, helping them to live life in the fullest way possible. If you would like to hear from about our dedicated dementia care, please don’t hesitate to get in touch or read more about choosing a dementia care home.