When you learn that you have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, you may be hesitant to tell others, especially to a child or teenager. Children often experience a wide range of emotions when their parent or grandparent has Alzheimer’s disease. Young children may be fearful that they will get the disease or that they did something to have caused it. Teenagers may become resentful if they must take on more responsibilities or feel embarrassed that their parent or grandparent is “different.” Children who may be heading off to college may be reluctant to leave home. Here are some tips on helping them understand:
-As silly as it might seem, reassure younger children that they can’t “catch” Alzheimer’s from you.
-Be straightforward with them about personality and behavior changes that you may go through. For example, you may start to forget things, such as their names, and say and do things that might embarrass them. Assure them that any of this is not their fault or intentional but a result of the disease.
-Talk to them about their emotional needs and find ways to support them, such as advising them on meeting with a counselor who specializes in children who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
-Notify their school’s social workers and teachers about what your child may be experiencing and be given information about the disease.
-Encourage them to attend support group meetings and include them in your counseling sessions.
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