New children’s book could help kids understand grandparents’ dementia

Having a family member with dementia can be challenging and helping children to understand what it means is particularly hard. Now, a new book has been created to explore the theme with younger audiences and encourage discussion on the topic.

Katie Faulkner, a physiotherapist who specialises in working with dementia patients, wrote the book after dealing with the condition in her own family from a young age. Her great grandmother was diagnosed when Ms Faulkner was just eight years old and it inspired her to write Big Bear, Little Bear and Dementia.

She told the Press Association: “I know that my family shielded me from a lot of it, but it can be hurtful when someone you love doesn’t recognise you any more… It’s difficult to understand it all when you are very young.”

The narrative follows a bear who puts books of memories on shelves with the newest on the top. As dementia shakes the shelves, those memories are the first to fall off, but the bear discovers they are still held safely in its heart.

Ms Faulkner explained she set out to write a story that was inclusive, as dementia can affect such a wide range of people. She got the illustrator Iain Welch on board to bring her characters to life and the result was Big Bear, Little Bear and Dementia.

Having originally self-published the book, Ms Faulkner has had offers from six different publishers to help her bring it to a larger audience. She intends to pick one to work with and continue to raise awareness of the condition.

She said: “The feedback from people who’ve read the book has been amazing, this is a complete passion project for me so I am so pleased it’s been really well received.”

The Alzheimer’s Society recognises that the relationships people have with those around them helps to form their identity and that this can change when a person has dementia. It offers tips and resources for maintaining positive relationships when a loved one is suffering from the condition.

Among the tactics it suggests is trying to focus on the relationship as it is now and not how it was before, as well as taking part in creative activities and shared hobbies. Music and art can bring great joy to those with dementia and provide the backdrop to loved ones spending time together.

The Alzheimer’s Society notes: “As the dementia progresses, some aspects of the relationship may become harder, such as the ability of a person with dementia to support those around them. However, many positive elements from the relationship (eg mutual affection) will remain.”