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About three in five caregivers say their children aged 8 to 21 are involved in caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease, according to a 2008 Harris Interactive poll.                   

HBO Project

Video:  Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?
With Maria Shriver 

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A Parent's Guide to how children and teens are affected

Alzheimer’s disease can have a big impact on
every member of the family, including children. Each child will react differently to someone who has Alzheimer’s.

The young people in your life might have questions about what is happening. It’s  important for you to answer these questions
openly and honestly. It will also help to
share with them the changes the disease might bring, now and in the future.
Factors that may affect your child

1. How your child is related to the person (a parent, grandparent, relative, friend).

2. How close your child is to this person emotionally.

3. Where this person lives (in the same home, long-term care facility, another

Common reactions of children and teens when a family member
is living with dementia; a child might feel

1.  Sad about how the person is changing.

2.  Curious about how people get the disease.

3.  Confused about why the person acts
differently or doesn’t recognize him or her.

4.  Frustrated by the new things it’s
necessary to do like repeating words or phrases.

5.  Guilty for resenting the time and resources the person requires of the family.

6.  Afraid of the different ways in which the person may act.

7.  Jealous of the additional time and given
to the person.

8.  Worried that he or she—or other loved ones—might also get Alzheimer’s.

9.  Embarrassed to have friends or other visitors to the house if the person is there
and acts strangely.

10. Unsure how to act around the person.
All of these feelings are normal. Keep in mind that children are also resilient and may
respond to the situation with few problems.

It might be difficult to recognize how your child is feeling. A child who is having a hard time understanding or accepting the disease might

1.  Withdraw from or lose patience with the person.

2.  Express physical pain, like a stomachache
or headache.

3.  Do poorly in school.

4.  Spend more time away from home.

5.  Stop inviting friends to the house.

6.  Argue more with others at home, especially those providing care for the person with Alzheimer’s.

Special issues for teens

Adolescence is challenging in general, and the disease may bring even more changes
to your teen’s life. For example, you may need to ask your teen to pitch in more
around the house or to assist with caregiving.

Teens may express a variety of thoughts about how their lives have changed, such as
1.  I don’t like to talk about what’s going on at home with my friends.

2.  When I help out with my uncle, I feel like my family really needs me.

3.  I feel good that I know how to do the little things that make a difference for my dad.

4.  Sometimes I feel embarrassed about how my grandpa is acting.

5.  I don’t feel comfortable having my friends over right now.

6.  I’ve never felt closer to my mom than I do now because we’re facing this together.
Questions your child might ask

Often the whole family is learning about dementia together. Your child might not
understand the disease. Encourage your child to ask questions. Answer honestly
and in a way that is easy to understand. Use terms that match the child’s level of understanding.

Some questions your child might have

1.  What is Alzheimer’s disease?

2.  Why is Dad acting differently?

3.  Will Mom get Alzheimer’s, too? Will I?

4.  Why does Grandpa call me by my dad’s name?

5.  Will Grandma die from Alzheimer’s?

6.  Why does Abuelita keep asking the same question?

7.  How can I help Papa?

8.  Will my uncle get better?

9.  Will I get Alzheimer’s if I spend time with Auntie?

10. What are some things we can do together?

11. Will Grandad forget me?

Your local Alzheimer’s Association can help you answer questions and provide information about how the family can work
through the changes brought on by the disease.

Keep open lines of communication

Good communication is the best way to help your child deal with the changes that are

Answer questions honestly
Respond simply to questions in an age-appropriate way.

Try not to sugar coat the message. Children
are excellent observers and often aware if an answer doesn’t sound right.

Teach your child about the disease.
Begin sharing information about the disease and its symptoms as soon as you can.
Encourage your child to ask questions.
Be patient and use words that are easy to understand.

Reassure your child that just because a person in the family has Alzheimer’s, it
does not mean that he or she or other family
members will get the disease, too.

Help your child learn more
about Alzheimer’s

Great progress has been made in scientific research. Let your child know that better
treatments or even a cure could be discovered by the time he or she is grown.

Your child might find comfort in learning more about the disease and how the brain works.  Alz.org features a kids and teens
section offering information and support,
as well as videos of other children and teens facing Alzheimer’s disease in their families.

You can also contact the Alzheimer’s
Association for more information and
recommendations for books and other resources geared toward children and teens.

If your child expresses feelings of helplessness, work together to find a way
to get involved. For ideas, contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at

Let your child know these feelings
are normal

Young people need a way to share their feelings about having a loved one with
Alzheimer’s disease. Show comfort and support by letting them know that those 
feelings are normal.

Create opportunities for your child to
express feelings

Make sure your child is getting enough support. Set aside a regular time to be
together. Activities or outings can create
great opportunities for a child to open up.

Prepare the child for changes

Alzheimer’s worsens over time. A person with dementia may look healthy on the outside, but on the inside, the brain is not
working properly.

Let your child know what changes to expect

Talk about what those changes will mean for him or her and your family. Also, make sure
your child understands why you might have
less time to spend together.

Let your child know it’s not his or her fault'

Dementia can cause a person to direct confusion, fear or anger at the child.
If this happens, be sure the child knows
the person did not mean to act that way.

People with dementia have good days and bad days. Make sure your child does not
feel responsible for the kind of day it is.

Those who help care for the person with dementia might sometimes seem tired,
frustrated, sad or short-tempered.
Explain to your child that he or she is not to blame.

Inform your child’s teacher and school counselor

Let them know the ways in which Alzheimer’s disease is affecting your child and the family.
Teens may open up more to an adult outside
the family than to a parent, so explore whether a teacher, counselor or another kind of mentor is available.
10 activities children can share
with the person with dementia

1. Bake cookies.

2. Take a walk around the neighborhood.

3. Put a puzzle together.

4. Weed a garden or plant flowers.

5. Color or draw pictures.

6. Make a scrapbook of family photographs.

7. Read a favorite book or story.

8. Eat a picnic lunch outside.

9. Watch your favorite TV show together.

10.Listen to or sing old songs.