Helping children understand dementia

Dementia can be a hard concept for younger children to understand.

Grandmother and granddaughter petting the family beagle.

When someone in your family has dementia

You may have someone in your family who has Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. Alzheimer's disease and other dementias affect the person's brain. When people have this disease, they forget, they get confused, they have trouble speaking and taking care of themselves.

Scientists don't know why people get Alzheimer's disease, but they are working hard to find a cause so they can stop it from happening.

You can't get Alzheimer's disease from another person, like the cold or the flu. Just because someone in your family has the disease, it doesn't mean you will get it.

Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of growing old. Most people who have the disease are over 65 but sometimes (not very often) people in their 40s and 50s get it too. As people get older, their chances of developing the disease increases.

People with Alzheimer's disease may forget your name, see or hear things that are not there, get lost, have trouble sleeping or say the same things over and over. This can cause them to become frustrated or nervous and they may get angry with you for no reason. It is important to know that they do not mean to treat you badly. It is not your fault if the person gets upset. Alzheimer's disease makes the person act in this way.

Taking care of someone with Alzheimer's disease is a hard job. If your mom, dad or grandparent is taking care of someone with the disease, they are probably very busy.

You may find that they do not have as much time to spend with you or when they do, they are too tired to do anything. You may feel sad or angry about this. It is important to remember that they still love you. Talk to your family, a teacher or a trusted adult about your feelings.

People with Alzheimer's disease need to know you care. When you hold their hand or give hem a hug, they will always feel your love.

You may have questions about what is happening to the person with Alzheimer's disease. You can learn more about the disease and how to help the person.

Here is a list of things you can do

Remember past events
People with Alzheimer's disease like to remember things from long ago. You can help them remember by sitting with them and looking at old pictures or photo albums.

Make a Memory Box
You probably have many special memories about spending time with the person who has Alzheimer's disease. Fill a box with five special things that will help you to remember those times. Examples could be: fishing hook, a gold coin, a letter or card, a piece of jewellery (pin or brooch), a watch, a medal, a baseball, a theatre ticket stub.

Help around the house
People with Alzheimer's disease like to keep busy. You can help them make their bed, fold their laundry, help make lunch, go for walks or rake leaves in the yard.

To learn more
Contact your local Alzheimer Society.

Book list

Download this list of resources for kids, and check your public library, school library or book stores for more.

For more information: Just for Kids information sheet, Alzheimer Society of Canada

Helping teens understand dementia

What are some ways you can help a teenager understand dementia, especially if someone in the family is living with it? Here are some facts and questions to inform and support.

Learn more
A group of adults and teenagers

Ways to help

Friends, neighbours and extended family are important sources of support for the family. Perhaps you want to help but don't know where to begin. This page will give you some ideas of how you can offer practical help and show that you care.

Learn more
End dementia stigma: Be patient and offer help.