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Explaining Dementia to young children
hi just after some advice on how to explain my mother declining health to my young children 4 and almost 2 with out scaring them.
Mum has early onset frontal lobe Dementia and Alzheimers. Today she had a toilet accident which my daughter discovered after my parents left it was very upset and hard to explain.
So far o have told my daughter (4) nanny is sick part of her brain has become unwell and isn’t working like it should so she forgets things and gets confused.
Any other ideas????
If things are peaceful you could try little projects at the table or whatever gets them to focus on eachother. Then your child might become more accepting of Grandma's behaviors...well not the mess in the bathroom. That's unfortunate. I've noticed that knowing Grandma well makes the kids more responsive to her and helps us all.
I don't know how long this will last but i know we are teaching our children important life lessons (about sacrifice, love, strength, family,...) when they watch us care for our parents. Spend the time, make the memories and enjoy the good times.
My mother started
showing pretty significant signs when my oldest was about 2, she is now 7 and
has a 3 year old sibling. Even when we had said nothing about grandma or an
illness, she still knew at a young age. She knew the rules were different with
grandma, that she was different from other grown ups. She didn’t really require
an explanation at age 2. Around age 4 I started saying that grandma's brain had
a problem. That it made her forget things, and sometimes behave in ways most
grown ups don't. It means she can't help it and we love her anyway and help her
best we can. We talked and expanded on this as my daughter got
older. I later told her the problem with
her brain was called dementia. When the time came to move mom, I told my
daughter that grandma’s dementia was affecting her ability to take care of
herself, that she had forgotten how to do that and it was too much for grandpa
now, so we were moving her to a place that had people who could help her.
I always kept
explanations simple, answered questions as honestly as I could. The kiddo kind
of directed what she was ready for with questions. They are so observant and
some times pick up on stuff you don’t even realize. I would just keep it calm, and emphasize that grandma can't help it and that means we need to be understanding and extra helpful.
My Dad moved in with me three weeks ago. He has vascular dementia. Today his paranoia has been focused on my 6yo daughter. He says there is "something evil happening there". She is a sweet, helpful, curious child who loves her grandpa,but is still adjusting to having him live in our house. She tests limits with him, just like she does with me and her Dad. I talked to her about not arguing with grandpa and that he is an adult who she has to respect.
My dad is very agitated when she is around (which is always, cause Covid), and telling me privately that he is "scared of her".
I'm having trouble with validating him on this one and appreciate advice!
Thank you for reading!
Andtay, I have always found it best to tell children the simple truth. When I was three, my parents told me Grandpa sat in a chair and didn't speak because he had a stroke. When I expressed surprise that he did not thank me for the glass of water I gave him, they told me that did not mean he did not appreciate it, it simply meant he could not speak. It worked for me.
Many years later, I told my three year old "Mama is in the hospital because she is ill, and she will come home when she is better." It worked for him.
I don't embellish with information they didn't ask for. You may recall the old story about the parent who responded to the question "Where did I come from?" with a detailed explanation of the birds and the bees. The child said "Oh, Larry said he came from Cleveland."
Thank you all for the replies. We moved Dad in three weeks ago after lengthy consultations and strong encouragement from his doctors and in home health providers. I am dismayed that they did not caution us about the potential for negative interaction with our kids. We have Dad on multiple assisted living waitlists and are trying our best to figure out financing. We agree that this is not a sustainable situation and are looking for places for him to go. Any advice from other Californians is very welcome.
Stuck in the Middle,
Thank you for the follow up. While they were tough to read, I appreciate your frank words.
Today I had my Dad admitted to a geriatric psych hospital. He resisted very strongly (I am still working on getting power of attorney), and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Everyone in his life, including his doctors agree that this was the right thing to do.
Thank you for being so straight with me. I needed it.