When Alzheimer’s Hits Home: Six Ways to Help Kids and Teens

We often talk about the impact of Alzheimer’s on the person with the disease, on the caregiver, and on “family members.” But couched within that language is the assumption that we’re only talking about adults.

What about the kids and teens who have a parent, grandparent, or other relative with Alzheimer’s disease? They are likely scared, confused, and perhaps angry or sad about the situation. And don’t forget the kids and teens who have a friend who is dealing with this challenge, which may bring up feelings of helplessness about how to be supportive or what to say.

(c) New York City Government Website

(c) New York City Government Website

If you are a parent with a child or teenager who is struggling to understand or cope with Alzheimer’s, you may have wondered if there are any good resources out there that you can trust. Fortunately, there are.

Here are six ways to help kids and teens learn more about Alzheimer’s and develop coping strategies. (Note: I was not asked to write about any of these resources, and I am not receiving any compensation for mentioning any of them.)

  1. Talk to them. If you’re at a loss about how to talk to your child or teenager about such a difficult topic, check out the Alzheimer’s Association resource, Parent’s Guide: Helping Children and Teens Understand Alzheimer’s Disease.
  2. Have them read. The publishing industry has recognized the need for books about Alzheimer’s that are geared toward youth. Here’s a list of books recommended by the Alzheimer’s Association, sorted by appropriate grade level: Information for Children and Adolescents.
  3. Show them quality videos. Again, the Alzheimer’s Association comes through with two video series on Alzheimer’s disease – one written for children and another written for teens. They are narrated by youth to make the presentation more accessible: Videos for Kids; Videos for Teens
  4. Search for quality shows. My sister-in-law pointed me to a wonderful show on PBS Kids called “Arthur.” This show contains at least one episode that pertains to memory loss (“Grandpa Dave’s Memory Album” – Season 14, Episode 18, available for purchase at Amazon.com); there is also an episode on the normal aging process (“Grandpa Dave’s Old Country Farm” – Season 1, Episode 15, available on YouTube for free). Keep an eye out for other kids programs that address these issues, and be sure to screen them first.
  5. Have them learn interactively. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends several websites that provide interactive learning opportunities to help kids and teens understand Alzheimer’s disease and how the brain works.
  6. Talk to other parents. Attending a support group can help connect you with other parents who also are searching for the best ways to help their children and teenagers understand and cope with Alzheimer’s disease. Find a support group near you.

Helping your child or teenager with the challenge of Alzheimer’s may feel daunting, especially if you are also caring for your loved one with the disease. The good news is that children are remarkably resilient and often can grasp what’s happening more easily than many adults can when provided the proper information in the right context.

Don’t hesitate to use these resources to do just that.

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