How to Explain Dementia to Children

Dementia can be a difficult subject to talk about, especially when you are trying to explain the condition to a child. You might wonder when you should talk to them and what you should say, or you could be asking yourself what you shouldn’t say. In fact, you might even believe that, especially for young children, it’s best to put off that discussion for as long as possible.

If these are the sorts of questions rolling around in your head, here are some answers that might surprise and reassure you.

The Best Time to Explain an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis to Your Child

Believe it or not, experts say that the best time to talk to children about dementia is as soon as possible. Even very young children notice when something is different. While it’s natural to think you might be better off avoiding the subject, this approach can have unintended consequences.

When we try to protect our child’s feelings by acting like everything’s fine or worse still, lie to them, this can return to haunt us. While it might not matter much at the moment, eventually kids figure things out or, at the very least, question them.

Maybe they’ll notice some medical paperwork about a grandparent’s diagnosis. Perhaps they will see an increase in in home care services, or a visit from a nurse at home. Perhaps they will see a stack of Get-Well cards addressed to Grandma or Grandpa. Then out of the blue, your child chimes in with, “Mummy, why did Grandma get this card? I thought you said she wasn’t sick!”

Suddenly, you’ll have to come clean and explain dementia to the young person in your house. If you haven’t been candid before, your child might question if you are telling the truth now.

How do You Talk to Children About Dementia Without Frightening Them?

Don’t beat around the bush, especially if you provide in home care for your loved one. Sit down with your child and give it to them straight:

“Grandma has something called Alzheimer’s disease.” After all, the young people in your life are going to hear it sooner or later. When you explain things to them clearly yet gently, it cushions the fear factor.

Of course, it’s important to lay things out in an age-appropriate way that your child will understand. Later in this article, we’ll cover some guidelines for having a conversation about dementia with children of different ages.

You may also seek the advice of a Child Life Therapist, whose job it is to know how to explain health problems to youngsters. A social worker, nurse educator or even a home care agency that specialises in this area, such as Home Care Assistance might be able to help too.

There are also some good books about dementia education for children such as My Singing Nana, Granny in the Big House, or Grandma Rose

A Dementia Diagnosis is Not the Same as a Cold or Upset Tummy

Children, especially very young children, may not know the difference between an illness you usually recover from and one that is permanent. Tell kids that when it comes to care for the elderly, some diseases are not like catching a cold. Then clarify what it means.

On the one hand, the disease isn’t going to get better. The good part is that you can’t come down with the illness when you are around your loved one. If your child is fond of hugging their grandparent or sitting on their lap, make sure they know they can still do that. You might want to say that being close to Grandma or Grandpa is more important than ever.

You’ll also want to be on the lookout for what some experts call magical thinking. This is the tendency for children to think that the things they say and do can change other people. For example, “I got upset and yelled at Grandpa and now he has Alzheimer’s. Is it my fault?”

Age-Appropriate Discussions with Your Kids About Dementia

As children grow up and develop, the way they see the world grows and develops too. Understanding how children typically view disease, especially relating to aged care and care for the elderly, according to their age group can lead to more meaningful discussions with them.

Has your child been through an experience involving a sick family member? Have they seen programs on television or viewed films that might impact the way they perceive illness? Is your child aware of ageing and aged care services?  Will cultural background affect how they think about dementia? Pay attention to all of these factors when deciding how to go about including children in the discussion.

Let’s review some basic guidelines on how to communicate with children in an age-appropriate manner.

For very young children ages two or under:

  • Small children have very limited knowledge and understanding about disease.
  • They are more likely to get a feeling about something rather than process it analytically.
  • Very young children are highly attuned to their environment and readily notice changes.
  • For these reasons, the key to success is to emphasise comfort and to be as reassuring as possible.

For children ages two through six years old:

  • Children as young as two may begin to develop ideas about illness.
  • It’s quite common for children between the ages of two and six to ask questions about their grandparent’s disease and observed in home care or aged care services.
  • Address their questions as candidly as possible.
  • If you don’t know the answer to their question, just say so.
  • While you want to be strong and comfort your child, that doesn’t mean you should hide your emotions. For example, if you are feeling sad, express it.
  • Remember that even though your child might continue to enjoy normal childhood activities like playing, that doesn’t mean they’re not deeply affected by the illness.
  • Encourage your children to express their emotions with activities like reading a story together or working on an art project.

For children ages six through twelve years old:

  • When a child is a bit older, they start to form an idea of what illness is and how it can affect one’s body.
  • They now see that different people react to things in different ways.
  • They might be ready to learn more about how and why their grandparent might have developed dementia and might require aged care services or in home care.
  • Try having them give their loved one a dementia appropriate gift and use it together, such as a puzzle or colouring book.
  • Some kids in this age group enjoy recording their thoughts in a journal, while others may prefer reading, art projects or even participating in a support group.

For young adults ages thirteen to eighteen years old:

  • By the time your child is a teenager, it’s quite possible they have seen a family member live with an illness, receive in home care assistance or aged care services, or even pass away.
  • While they might have witnessed it before, knowing that someone they love is sick may still have a big impact on their adolescent life.
  • Share tips on dementia communication so they feel confident about how to interact with their grandparent.
  • Stay attuned to changes in your teenage child’s mood, behaviour or schoolwork.
  • Adolescents place increasing importance on relating to people of their own age. For this reason, a support group of peers who have a loved one with dementia can be beneficial.
  • Exploring self-expression is important. Activities like journaling and music are sometimes helpful in encouraging teens to explore their feelings.

Honesty About Dementia is Still the Best Policy

The best and simplest approach for explaining dementia to your child is as follows:

  • Be clear that there is currently not a cure for dementia.
  • Let them know that Alzheimer’s gets worse over time.
  • While you will risk upsetting your child, the higher virtue is to build trust by being honest.
  • Emphasise the ways they can still connect with and show love to their loved one.
  • When you’re not exactly sure what to say, look to your children. When they ask a question, answer it.

References

How to Tell Kids About a Loved One’s Illness

My Singing Nana

Granny in the big house

Grandma Rose

Talking with Children and Youth About Serious Illness

Parents’ guide

Association of Child Life therapists Australia

Let us help you

Home Care Assistance can help. Call Your Local Team today for your complimentary in-home assessment.

Find A Local Team

DEDICATED TO AGEING WELL
So blessed. Such a wonderful team to take care of me, keeping my life simple and enabling the very best I could wish for. Thank you, Meg and Dave!
I can't thank the team at Home Care Assistance North Coast enough for their help with my Dad. David led us through the Home Care Package details with honesty and integrity, and they were able to... organise a lawn mowing service as well as a carer to visit Dad.My only regret is that we didn't get to spend more time with the team as Dad has now moved into an Aged Care Facility. Thank you again.read more
In November I was looking for a New Provider for my package.Fortunately I found HOME CARE ASSISTANCE in SOUTHPORT Qld.Immediately after my phone call MISCHELLE,and JOURDAN VisitedMy home to... explain the care I needed,and immediately everythingWas put into place.My Care Givers are of First class help to me,Highly qualified and have allRelevant TRAINING. FIRST AID-CPR-and Police checks are currentAlso INSURANCE.I am just so Happy with the service,also Quality and Love, given by allStaff.THANK YOU Home CAre Assistance. All my problems are now solvedAnd this is a major relief for my HEALTHI would RECOMMEND your Company to Anyone. THANKS AGAINread more
Great company, would definitely recommend. The employees are superb
Best Home Care Agency in South East Melbourne!Friendly ,Reliable, trusting in looking after your loved one.
My husband had two major strokes 6 years ago which turned our lives upside down over night. two years ago we were given the opportunity to look for a provider to help us make life easier at home for... my husband. We choose a provider and had them for two years. I can't tell express enough of how that ended up causing us so much stress and anxiety as they were in this business for the wrong reasons, very money orientated as fees were astronomical and the service was equally as bad. My husband even had a bad accident on his scooter where he could of been killed at Helensvale and some low life also stole his mobile phone while he was on the ground so he could not contact anyone but not even a word from my provider to say how sorry they were to hear that, it meant nothing, like I said just in it for the money. After two years I had had enough and found a provider by the name of Home Care Assistance. We have only been with them for one month and already it has made a huge difference to our lives, the stress levels are manageable now as they are absolutely in this business of caring for the elderly and disabled for the RIGHT reasons, they have been nothing but professional, kind and caring and they actually listen to what our needs are even though they are sometimes of the chart, but what counts is that it is to make my husbands life better, he is the one who was unlucky in life to have this happen to a very kind soul at a young age. We needed help and now we have it. The director of this company Michelle and our client advisor Jourdan have been the best and I can honestly say to anyone out there looking for a provider, as there are many, don't look any further than Home Care. If anyone would like to speak to me personally, pls get in touch with HomeCare as I will gladly tell u our story and how important it is that when tragedy strikes and you are a mess, you really need that help and support. I can't thank Home Care enough for everything in such a short time. I feel blessed to have found them.read more
Really appreciate you guys helping my grandpa. Great service and staff.
I looked long and thoroughly before I selected a care provider for my husband who has dementia. Being with Home Care Assistance for almost a year, has confirmed all my expectations. And more.As a... carer I feel very supported by David and Meg. They are always available by phone or email, and this means a lot. But perhaps the best quality of their organisation is the high calibre and personalised choice of all the care givers they have provided for us - whether it be someone to spend time with my husband or someone to slash our overgrown yard.I have no hesitation in recommending Home Care Assistance - and, indeed, have already done so.Pamela Payneread more
Great team
“Home Care Assistance are the true definition of higher class care. The team at HCA listened to our needs and we weren’t just another customer. Our carer arrives on time every time and helps with the... difficult tasks like cleaning and washing. The carer also takes us shopping so we don’t have to think about driving to the shops anymore. Thank you HCA, we don’t worry about how we will live at home anymore.”read more
I have received care for the last 2 years so I would like to say how happy I am with the provider. My carer is a well trained ex nurse who has helped me to live a happier life and look after my... needs. I am a level 4 and would probably need assistance outside my home without their care.i would reccommend the provider too anyone needing assistance . I have the same carer which is great for continuety of service She notices when I feel unwell without saying anything and looks after me very well.read more
hugely appreciative of their responsiveness, level of care and compassion. Would highly recommend.
Dave and the team go above and beyond to ensure your loved one receives the best possible care
Exceptional service from carer Rebecca. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Michelle & her service in caring for your loved ones.
Would highly recommend this home care provider. I am so glad I took my grandmother out of a home care package as we were paying too much in fees. The staff are very attentive and helpful.
We had a couple of unsatisfactory situations with care providers as we found the service unsatisfactory and disappointing. We considered cancelling the idea of any home care service until we found... Home Care Assistance. The BEST ever care. Communication is fabulous, information is succinct and they are affable and approachable. From the first contact with Geoff, to liaising with Kelly, I knew we had found the service that delivers what we expected to receive from a care provider. Thankyou you good people, for your care and consideration of our needs.read more
High quality, unique approach with a customised care plan to promote independence and client satisfaction.
Great service helpful staff that can't do enough for you and very reasonable fees
Would definately recommend, Kristy is the best :-)
Kristi is my personal Carer who does a wonderful job and at the same time she is very caring. Kristi is like one of the family and does not need any direction, she comes and does her work in a... professional manner. I also want to say that Michelle & Jourdan who run the Carers company is the best Carer's Company I have ever been with, they are so caring in every way, I wish there were more stars I could give them Congratulations to them, Blessings Rosalie Muir.read more
We have been with Home Care assistance for last three years. I am impressed by the diversity of the services, they provide.I had few carers but the carer, Shweta, has been coming to us for last two... years, has been a Godsend. She pushes him to do the things which i am unable to. It’s a compliment to Homecare assistance to employ professionals of that standard.No matter what problem I incur, all I have to do is to ring the agency..The eagerness and understanding towards the need of the client is amazing.I would recommend Homecare assistance to anyone and everyone, who requires assistance in all aspects of life.In my case i am grateful of the help i am getting to look after my husband.read more
I have been a Home Care Assistance client for 18 months.From day one the kindness and professional manner shown to me by Michelle has been wonderful. I no longer feel like a source of income I... feel like a valued friend.I look forward to the visits from Joan, who is often the only visitor we see, and also the the calls from Michelle 'just checking everything is okay'.Changing providers was the very best decision I made. Home Care Assistance genuinely care - about me and about all their other clients.read more
Kristi has been nothing but amazing, Couldn’t recommend her more !
The carers who looked after my elderly mother were without exception highly motivated, caring and compassionate. Not only was Mum looked after supremely well, she was provided with wonderful... companionship, a level of independence that would have been impossible without the help of her special carers, and a lot of fun. It is difficult to put into words how much this meant to her entire family! Keep up the good work.read more
We were very happy with Home Care Assistance's and dealing with staff was a pleasure. Highly recommend.
Great service looking after my nan. Thanks so much guys.
David and his team have been outstanding in the help they have offered my father. i would highly recommend them to anyone. First class job!
Home Care Assistance run by Jeremy and Samantha, a lovely couple with a caring attitude and a family themselves. After bringing my Mum to Sydney and needing expert help immediately I found HCA online... and liked their story. As soon as they walked in our door, we knew we were safe. I liked the fact that there was direct contact with the owners and nothing was too much trouble. The carers selected for Mum were perfect for her and very capable. Unfortunately Mum has had to move to a nursing home now but I would happily recommend this wonderful business to anyone with aged care needs.read more
I cannot speak highly enough of the team at Home Care Assistance. They treated my gran and I like we were close family and always ready to help 24/7. The carers they provided were of the highest... standard and loved by my gran. The family appreciated the nature of the carers when they spoke to us about her progress and their recommendations. Nothing was to big or small a task for them to solve.Definitely recommend reaching out to them for home care packages.read more
Great service, lovely people
We have now been with Home Care Assistance for 6 months and we are more than satisfied with the level of care and assistance we receive from our provider. If anyone out there is looking for an... exceptional provider that is in this business for the right reasons, look no further than Home Care Assistance. We are so lucky to have Jourdan who looks after all our requirements and is very efficient and professional. A big thank you for making life run a lot easier without added stress.read more
Would recommend this company to absolutely anyone! They pride themselves with quality service!
A thank you to the team at Hone Care Assistance from the Gold Coast, for taking extrodinary measures to look after my parents. A well organised and professional manner, thank you again..
Thanks to the team at Home Care Assistance Melbourne team for taking such care and compassion. The team genuinely cares and are there to support our family. Thank you.
As a former employee of this company working in the office and as a Carer, I cannot recommend this company enough. They genuinely care for their clients and employees. I loved working there with... Jeremy and his staff, but unfortunately had to leave due to relocation. I would not hesitate to recommend HCA Syd East to all clients who are aged and/or with disabilities to engage this service provider for all their vital services to enable you to live and enjoy staying in your own home and to be as independent as possible. Jeremy and his staff really listen to your needs, goals and aspirations and do their very best to match you up with a compatible and suitably qualified Carer. Nothing is too much trouble.read more
Jeremy is a really good man, he has fantastic family values and cares for everyone. I would definitely recommend Health Care Assistance to help you and your family
Homecare assistance is a high quality company run by friendly and highly qualified faces, I could not recommend the company enough to those who need it
Great company warm friendly staff
Great business, would recommend it to friends and family.
Home Care Assistance Gold Coast is our new Home Care Package Provider because we are moving from NSW to Queensland. When searching for a new provider, I came across this provider and after speaking... with Jordan, I felt comfortable in making the change. I look forward to working with Home Care Assistance Gold Coast for my husband's future needs. Since meeting Jordan, I am even more certain of our choice of provider. Anne and Robert Mackay.read more
As We are the Family With kid experienced to stay by this agent, I can not recommend this company enough. They genuinely care for their clients, whenever I asked for help a person I contact with... always try her best to help that I most thankful for her.read more
Home Care Assistance North Coast has really put the CARE back into my aged care experience for my mother.Right from the beginning communication with management (David and Meg) has been excellent... with all of my requests and questions answered patiently, promptly and cheerfully.Due to Home Care Assistance's policy of tender care my mother has had hand massages, foot baths and massages, diversional therapy involving music and art, poetry and encouraging Mum to interact positively.Domestic tasks are attended to cheerfully.Blue ribbon service and red carpet treatment for their valued clients. Highly recommended!read more
Lovely staff
Happy Christmas to Jourdan my home care manager and thank you so very much for all the help and care you've shown over the year I've been with GCHA, very happy with my home care package and how... you've gone over and above many times for me. Much appreciated, have a super new year, catch up with you then. Blessings to you and yours (:-read more
Jourdan and Michelle and their team have been fantastic. I have no idea how i would have gotten thru the last 8 months without them to be there for my mother. I live overseas and have relied on them... to be the main support team for my mother ( who has not been the easiest of customers ) . Through it all they have been amazing- so professional and responsive. Easy to contact and provided great updates so i knew exactly what was going on. Mom loved them - you will tooread more
The most helpful, caring, supportive and flexible team of people to assist with our elderly loved ones.I am so grateful for all you had done for my Mum.... ❤️❤️❤️read more
Our family has benefited from the excellent support and services from David, Meg and the team at Home Care Assistance North Coast for the past couple of years. I had an extensive list of questions... when we were deciding which provider to go with. David answered promptly, and impressed me with his empathy, accessibility (available after hours, weekends), and ability to tailor a package to meet our particular needs. Add to that the best value for package dollars, and it was an easy decision to go with HCA North Coast.The staff employed by HCA North Coast have been excellent. David was able to source staff who were a good match for my Dad’s personality. As our needs evolved, it was easy to change any aspect of the care provided.I am very happy to recommend Home Care Assistance North Coast, for anyone looking for quality care for their loved one.read more
Would recommend to everyone
My carer Beccy was perfectly matched to my needs. Michelle & Jourdan are always helpful & I couldn't live comfortably at home without the care from Home Care Assistance Gold Coast.
excellent staff and great service!
Exceptional Care and Customer Service - Many thanks to Jourdan Lofthouse the Director of Clinical Care and a RN to boot. I would not have been able to navigate the experience of finding a carer for... my elderly mother without his professionalism, compassion and guidance. For anyone having to find a carer to visit a loved one on the Gold Coast I would recommend that Home Care Assistance is their first choice!read more
highly recommend the team at Home Care Newcastle - Thank you again team.
I have recommended Home Care Assistance Newcastle to a few friends now. After having a bad experience with another service provider, Kerrie went above and beyond to help my mother, who has dementia,... with new services. Kerrie, Mark and their team are compassionate, professional and genuinely care about their clients.read more
Home Care Assistance Gold Coast have been five star in the service and care they've provided for my grandparents. A huge thank you to the professional team behind the scenes who ensure all clients... are well taken care of. Highly recommend!read more
I have changed the company who provided care for my mother to Home Care Assistance who are based at the Gold Coast. With the previous company I had 40 different carers over 3 years and now have the... same carer 5 days a week. My mother was with the same big company for 20 years. I requested they send the same carer on certain days but really did not care about my mothers or my needs. When someone is blind and deaf they do not need a carer coming into the house who has not been here before.The carers with Home Care Assistance are paid a better hourly rate than the previous company and their admin costs are far cheaper and now saving $600 a month which can now give me more hours.If you have elderly parents looking to change from the BIG providers give them a call. Michelle and Jourdan have been great to deal with and very caring.I highly recommend this company.They have carers looking for work and need more clients to make the transfer.read more
Home Care Assistance are always available to help Mum and Dad. The carers are always lovely and polite. I feel very confident in recommending them to anyone looking for care for their loved ones.
Yes Folks it's all true, you've found the best Age Care Provider on the Gold Coast.Flash Jourdan Lofthouse and his Merry staff are doing great work for my mum and several of her close friends.... Ramps, railings, shower ensuite, cleaning, gardening all set up nicely. All in a days work and carefully costed. When you meet and chat to Jourdan you'll be happy to sign up. Julieread more
Highly recommend the team at Home Care North Coast. Thank you for your attention and care. A+ advice and support.
At the beginning of this year I interviewed several care companies searching for help with my mum who is totally dependant every day.Mum was quite resistant to the idea of having strangers coming in... to her home, she felt very uncomfortable, but I was desperate at the same timefeeling guilty. When speaking with Jourdan as we discussed HCA & theirpolicies, prices, priorities I felt that this was the right company for my mum & I. The interest in my mums needs & her fears were clearly important, which put me at ease making this new journey a little easier.From the 7th March we have received excellent care. Whatever we asked for has been received. The carers who attend to my mum are perfectly matched to her needs, she now feels safe, very comfortable & well cared for, she is also looking forward to their visits. The services we require are cleaning, meals, companionship & most of all friendliness. All of these are of a high standard. Mum & I are very grateful to all at Home Care Assistance Gold Coast. Glenis & Normaread more
Would recommend
Great place and would highly recommend!
Everyone I’ve interacted with at Home Care Assistance has been friendly, professional and very helpful.My 85 year old mother has settled into her daily routine in her own home very nicely with the... care and support received from Home Care Assistance.I have received excellent advice, service and care for my mother and highly recommend this professional organization.read more

Industry Leader

We're committed to elevating In-Home Care, Sharing Our Expertise, and Supporting Care Workers which is why we are Internationally recognised as an Industry Leader