One of the most important relationships is the relationship between grandchildren and their grandparents. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia may take away the fullness of that relationship over the years.
However, there are still ways to nurture the connection between grandparent and grandchild, keeping it meaningful and strong even in the case of a grandparent’s cognitive decline.
Read our tips on how to communicate and nurture a connection throughout a grandparent’s dementia.
Start by talking to your child about what is happening with Grandma or Grandpa and don’t try to pretend that nothing is wrong. Without an explanation, children may sense you’re trying to hide something — or worse, they may become confused or frightened by their grandparent’s behavior.
With younger children, keep the explanation simple. Tell them that Grandma or Grandpa has an illness that causes them to have trouble remembering things.
Let them know they shouldn’t get upset if their grandparent forgets their name and that it is part of the illness. It doesn’t mean that their grandparent loves them any less.
With older children (typically 10 and above), you can be more specific about the details of the illness. You can explain that their grandparent has an illness called Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
They are likely to have questions. Make sure you do your research so you can share with them what they can expect when it comes to their grandparent’s behavioral changes or memory loss.
As dementia progresses, it will change the relationship between your child and their grandparent. Help to keep the connection strong with regular interactions and visits.
With a gradual progression of the disease, children will be better able to process the changes in their grandparent if they visit on a frequent basis.
There are many ways that grandparent and grandchild can interact that are less dependent on memory acuity.
It’s hard enough for adults to see their parent or senior loved one experience the cognitive decline associated with dementia. For children, who are grappling with hard-to-process feelings, it can be even more difficult.
Lean on each other as a family to get through this difficult time. Rely on resources from your community, including counseling, to help your child and yourself.
As your parent declines, your children may become increasingly reluctant to visit. Let them know you realize how hard this is because it’s hard for you as well. Perhaps work out a compromise where they visit less frequently, but make sure they keep visiting. It will mean something to your parent – even if they can’t express it – as well as to your children later on.
Diane Franklin is a freelance writer and editor who writes regularly about senior living and healthcare. She has also written hundreds of articles for business and trade publications, including leading magazines for the credit union and retail paint industries.
What other suggestions do you have for nurturing a relationship through a grandparent’s dementia? We’d like to hear your family’s tips in the comments below.