One of the many things to do when you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other memory related issue is to tell the rest of the family. From the oldest to the youngest members, the only way to approach memory issues is with clear and open communication. This can be hard, in every conceivable sense, but it must be done. As the disease progresses, it will become harder and harder to broach the subject of why mom or grandma can’t remember names and faces, or why dad or grandpa keeps getting agitated without a noticeable reason.
That said, it can be easy to come together as a family, to rally around you or your loved one when all is said aloud and everyone knows what the underlying issues are. There’s no magic cure for Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other memory related issues. There is only now, and the choices we make to enjoy the quality, and quantity, of life available to us.
How to Talk About Alzheimer’s Disease with Children
Sometimes the people who notice the most are paid the least amount of attention during medical crises. Children are very sensitive souls, and they often notice things that adults might overlook. When grandma no longer remembers their name, or is always asking the same question over and over, the child may begin to wonder if something they did was the cause of the problem. This usually manifests through behavior – shying away from previous activities, acting out in school or on the playground, and otherwise “negative” behaviors.
Sit down with children and explain to them that the person who has been diagnosed has a disease, and that there was nothing that the child did to make anything bad happen. You can say things like “grandma has a disease that makes her forget things sometimes” without getting into technical terminology. Due to the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, this is becoming more of a mainstream issue. As such, there are books out there to help parents and children talk about Alzheimer’s and dementia, broaching the subject in many creative and memorable ways. Just remember: talk openly, listen fully, and love deeply.
How to Talk About Alzheimer’s Disease with Teens
Teens, like children, notice behaviors that adults may sometimes overlook or push aside. As with children, teens may act out negatively when dealing with the emotions brought on by the loss of someone they love. Talking to a teen can be challenging by itself, but by taking the time to explain the basics of the disease, you can make Alzheimer’s less scary for them. Honesty and open communication will go a long way to helping teens to cope with the life changes ahead.
If it is a mother or father with the disease, it can be even harder to approach the teen, not wanting to break such bad news. Trying to hide the effects or diagnosis of the disease will only bring out resentment and anger in teenagers, who will see any attempt to conceal not as kindness but as antagonism. Their world is changing, and this may be one of the first times they’ve encountered the reality of mortality.
Take the time to ask them how they feel, and take the time to listen to what they say. Encourage journaling, as writing about feelings can be a very therapeutic for young adults. Encourage children and grandchildren to be honest and open about their feelings surrounding the disease and the progression, and remember to be open about your own feelings about the issue with them. Anger and sadness are normal feelings to feel during this time, so tell children and teens that. Don’t forget it yourself, either.
Approaching Siblings About Changes in Mom or Dad
Another difficult approach is breaking the news to siblings that mom or dad have the disease. Sometimes a diagnosis is a family affair from the start, but many people who suffer from memory problems spend a lot of time and effort trying to hide their issues. This can mean finding out well into a diagnosis, which can feel like a betrayal. Don’t take the feeling of betrayal personally, though, The person suffering from the disease is just as scared and angry as you are. In fact, they’re probably more so.
As with children and teens, open and honest communication is key to unpacking the full emotional basket. Be honest about your anger or sadness, and be open with your siblings about your feelings. Remember that they also have feelings about the situation, and to listen carefully to their opinions and feelings as well. Try to support one another, and keep from having one sibling bearing the brunt of daily care, or finding the care mom or dad needs alone.
Talk. Listen. Support.
Above all, when approaching any part of your family, from the oldest to the youngest members, it’s always important to remember: talk openly, listen fully, and love deeply. This is a time of upheaval, from learning new behaviors to trying to keep everything from falling apart, life is going to have some ups and downs. Family is the best support system, but that support needs to start on a foundation of trust, open communication, and love.
Talk. Be open and honest about you or your loved one’s condition, especially with children and teens. Listen. Keep your ears open to the other people in your life. From suggestions about care, to being a comforting ear for another family member’s big meltdown moment, listening is a vital part of healthy communication. If you want to know more about facility care, Landmark Memory Care can be a good source of information regarding facility life. Check out our resources to see if a memory care facility suits your particular case.