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Published on: November 28, 2011
by Gary Joseph LeBlanc Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation:
A caregiver’s age can vary from a 12-year-old to someone in their nineties. Many families welcome parents and grandparents with Alzheimer’s into their home to care for them and keep them safe.
There will be times, though, when a parent might need to ask his or her teenage son or daughter to watch the memory-impaired grandparent while the parent is out running errands or just going out for the evening. If you have a responsible teen, by all means go out as a couple and try to maintain the romance in your relationship. The stress of caregiving is notorious for ripping families apart.
Explain to all of your children exactly what’s going on with their grandparent. Children are quite keen on what is happening around them. Withholding information in an attempt to shield them from confusion or pain will ultimately make the situation worse. Assure them that this disease is not contagious. Express that there will be plenty of unfamiliar behavior and changes coming from the grandparent and that they shouldn’t be alarmed.
Children tend to be flexible and will usually bounce back quickly from the strong emotions that will constantly be surrounding them while living with an Alzheimer’s patient.
Prepare them ahead of time that the grandparents with Alzheimer’s will eventually forget their names and even who they are. They’ll most likely shout at them for making too much noise or running in the house. My father had absolutely no recognition of any of his grandchildren or great-grandchildren during the last few years of his life.
Once again, point out that the patient is not to blame for his or her odd behavior, it is a direct result of the advancement of the disease.
There are some children who relate well to memory-impaired patients and develop a special relationship with them. You may wish to enlist their help with simple caregiving chores to help care for their grandparent.
What you might have to be concerned with is those few times when kids can be mean. Teasing or ridiculing the patient, will cause a mountain of confusion. It’s sad to say, but there could be times when patients may need to be protected from their own grandchildren.
If this is the case have another heart-to-heart with them. Youngsters may be acting out from feeling cheated that a parent is spending quality time with the patient rather than with them.
It’s heartbreaking enough for an adult to witness what happens to a loved one dying from Alzheimer’s; just imagine how devastating it is for a grandchild. Telling a young child that Grandpa Joe isn’t crazy, he’s dying from a fatal disease, is difficult for any kid to understand. I firmly believe it’s best to prepare them now instead of trying to explain death when everybody is an emotional wreck. Honesty works best with children.
You may want to arrange a meeting with the childrens’ school. Talk to their teachers and counselors explaining the circumstances at home. Their behavior might become noticeably different when they are away attending class.
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