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Teaching Kids How to Interact with People with Dementia

As your family discusses senior care for your mom and dad, it's good to start with a list of possible services.
Top Home Care in San Diego, CA by Aaron Home Care
Top Home Care in San Diego, CA by Aaron Home Care

To preface this article, I should say that during Covid times, especially when cases are surging, we’ve been advised by the CDC to abstain from travel, hold smaller family gatherings, and to follow additional safety precautions. You can read those recommendations HERE.

However you choose to celebrate now or in the future, you may be hosting a mix of generations. This article focuses on giving children the tools to have positive interactions with loved ones who may have Alzheimer’s or dementia. All these tips can be used over Zoom or held onto until we are safe enough to have proper in-person celebrations with no restrictions!

Tools for Positive Interactions between Kids and Loved Ones with Dementia

Prep the kids. Let children know in advance that Grandma or Grandpa may be a little different from the last time they saw them. Remember it might be frightening for a child to see a different version of their loved one, so be honest and explain why and what to expect. Kids will understand more than you think.

Have kids introduce themselves.  Encourage kids to introduce themselves right off: “Hi Grandma, It’s me, your grandson Paul.” This works better than asking Grandma if she remembers you or your name. If Grandma has forgotten, it can cause her distress, frustration, and embarrassment.

Make-believe is okay. We teach our children not to lie, so kids might be confused if Grandma says things that are not true. Tell kids it’s okay in this instance, and to be ready to “make believe” with Grandma.

Remind kids to stay in line of sight when talking to Grandma. Keeping at eye level and facing Grandma as they speak will make it easier for Grandma to understand what’s going on and what’s being said.

Let kids do most of the talking. Go over different topics to bring up or stories to tell their loved ones. This will make it easier for children to initiate interaction themselves! Children might even be waiting for permission to talk to their loved one, and this is a great opportunity to let them know that it is encouraged!

Have activities for them to do together. Conversation and small talk can be exhausting for some people, especially kids and seniors! Break up all the talk with activities that are easy and enjoyable for both generations. Looking through photo albums, coloring, arts and crafts, puzzles and singing are some activities that are easy to implement and can provide the backdrop for meaningful interactions. And yes, these activities can also be coordinated over video chat!

Meaningful Interactions for the Holidays

We might be celebrating the holidays in ways that are different from years past, but it’s important to remember that at the heart of it all is love and connection. We can still foster that between kids and their elder relatives. While every situation is different — and dementia affects people in many ways — you can still find ways to ensure your child has a healthy, positive relationship with their grandparent even as the dementia progresses.

Here’s to a happy holiday season!

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