Today while surfing YouTube, I came across an interesting video titled “My Name is Lisa”. This film is about a young girl’s challenges to cope with her mother’s progressing Alzheimer’s disease. The video was a submission to YouTube’s “Project Direct”, a competition for film creators who have “something to say”.
I appreciated this video because it seems pretty accurate compared to experiences I’ve had with Alzheimer’s patients and their family members. However, one curious thing about the film was the age of the child in the video. I suppose that as women are having children later in life, it’s possible that children as young as the girl depicted in this video would have to deal with their primary caregiver suffering from something as dynamic as Alzheimer’s disease. That being said, even if it is a grandma or grandpa grappling with this condition, how much information out there about the disease is geared toward children? What happens when your child asks you the difficult questions at the next family gathering?
I found a wonderful article titled “Alzheimer’s: Helping children understand the disease” on the Mayo Clinic’s website. The article gives the following information about how to answer the questions commonly asked by children in regards to Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Is grandma crazy? Explain that Alzheimer’s is a disease. Just as children get colds and tummy aches, older adults may get an illness that causes them to act differently and to forget things.
Doesn’t grandpa love me anymore? If the person with Alzheimer’s disease no longer recognizes your child, he or she may feel rejected. Remind your child that the disease makes it hard for your loved one to remember things — but your child is still an important part of the person’s life.
Is it my fault? If the person with Alzheimer’s accuses your child of some wrongdoing — such as misplacing a purse or keys — your child might feel responsible. Explain to your child that he or she isn’t to blame.
Will you get Alzheimer’s? Will I? Reassure your child that Alzheimer’s disease isn’t contagious. Most people don’t get Alzheimer’s.
What will happen next? If you’ll be caring for the person with Alzheimer’s in your home, prepare your child for the changes in routine. Reassure your child that he or she is loved — no matter what the future holds.
In addition, if your child is old enough to read, see this book list recommended by the Alzheimer’s Disease and Education Referral Center’s website. The center’s website also features a wealth of other resources including a 1-800 number in order to deal with your specific questions.