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Helping kids cope with Alzheimer’s

Watching a parent or grandparent become transformed by Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementias is challenging enough for adults. For young children, the experience can be confusing, even overwhelming.

That’s why to mark November as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is offering tips to parents of kids coping with a loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnoses.

Here’s what the AFA recommends –

Have a chat

Even subtle changes in a loved one’s behavior such as confusion, telling and retelling the same story, and mood shifts are especially confounding to children.

The AFA advises parents to discuss dementias and how they may change someone’s  as soon as symptoms  become noticeable. Just be sure to keep chats age-appropriate.

“The best time to talk to children about Alzheimer’s or any dementia-related illness is as soon as you can,” said Jennifer Reader, LCSW, SIFI, AFA’s director of educational services & social services. “This conversation is about nurturing and maintaining the bonds between the family members while also helping to eliminate the fear of the unknown for the child.”

Explore new ways to communicate

Those who are challenged with Alzheimer’s or other dementias may not be able to hold conversations, answer a child’s questions or remember shared experiences.

Explain to kids that the offer of a hug or other appropriate show of affection are also ways communicate.

Nurture bonds

Reassure kids that a grandparent, uncle or aunt does not stop being a valued family member after an Alzheimer’s or other dementia diagnoses.

“All members of our families can love better when we understand our ailments, especially Alzheimer’s,” said physician and talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz. MD.

According to the AFA, more than 5.8 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that number could grow to 14 million by 2060.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the US and the only one in the top ten without a cure or reversible treatment, the AFA said.