Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition for the patient and the patient’s family, and it can be a particularly confusing disease for children. While Alzheimer’s education has been increasing for the general population, children still can have a difficult time understanding why someone they love is acting differently than they expect. Understanding what to tell children, and how to tell them, is imperative in making the experience the least stressful, as much as it is possible.
When to Tell Children About Alzheimer’s Disease

Children should be told about the disease as soon as possible after the diagnosis is made. Waiting to tell them could result in more confusion or pain if they cannot understand why a loved one is acting in seemingly unusual ways. In particular, adults should have many conversations over time with children to answer any questions or address any concerns the children likely have. If the child is older, finding some Internet resources could be helpful, such as the Alzheimer’s Foundation web site (www.alzfdn.org).

What to Tell Children About Alzheimer’s Disease

Because Alzheimer’s Disease is a condition that even many adults do not fully understand, it can be difficult to explain to children. Depending on the child’s age, they will be able to comprehend more or less about the disease and why it is having these effects on a loved one. One of the best methods of conversation is to give a simple description of the disease and to ask the children if they have any questions. Encourage continued discussion and contribute to Alzheimer’s education. Explain that their loved one may have trouble remembering things, and that it could get worse, but that it their condition does not have anything to do with how much they love the child. As much as possible, try to prepare them for the likely changes that they will encounter, and help them understand that it is a sickness.

In addition, many find it helpful to talk frequently to their children about memories from before the loved one was sick. Depending on how old the child is, reminiscing about the times before the loved one had Alzheimer’s Disease can be a good way to reinforce fond memories of the loved one and reinforce that the current condition is a sickness. Alzheimer’s can be a difficult experience for an entire family, but helping children understand can also help parents learn to cope with the disease a bit better.