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How to Talk to Children About a Grandparent's Dementia

Grandparent's Day is the ideal time to recognize and celebrate the special relationship between children and their grandparents.

For many families across America today, that unique relationship has been changed by a grandparent living with dementia. Dementia care authorities emphasize that a loved one with dementia affects every member of the family – including children.

Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA, says, "It's no secret that children often become very attached to their grandparents. Thus, the changes that accompany Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia can be very unsettling to children – even frightening.”

"Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to comfort their children and help allay their fears. Dementia care authorities recommend simple, honest answers to their questions and concerns.”

"For example, the Mayo Clinic offers the following tips and advice to parents of children who notice a change in a grandparent's behavior."


Useful Tips to Help Children Cope When a Grandparent Has Dementia

The Mayo Clinic – a leader in dementia care and the impact on families – offers helpful tips designed to enable children to cope with the changes they notice in a grandparent with dementia. They advise parents to anticipate their children’s’ questions and prepare simplistic answers that are appropriate for their age and understanding. Common questions include:

  1. What's wrong with grandma? Explain that dementia is a disease. Just as children get colds and tummy aches, older adults sometimes get an illness that causes them to act differently and to forget things. They might look the same on the outside, but their brains are changing on the inside.
  2. Doesn't grandpa love me anymore? If the person who has dementia no longer recognizes your child, he or she might feel rejected. Remind your child that the disease makes it hard for the grandparent to remember things — but your child is still an important part of their life and the grandparent can still feel their love.
  3. Is it my fault? If the person who has dementia accuses your child of some wrongdoing — such as misplacing a purse or keys — your child might feel responsible. Explain to your child that he or she isn't to blame and that the grandparent's behavior is caused by their illness. You can also explain to your child that it's best not to correct the grandparent because it could make them upset.
  4. Will you get dementia? Reassure your child that dementia isn't contagious. Most people don't get Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.
  5. What will happen next? If you will be caring for the person who has dementia in your home, prepare your child for the changes in routine. Explain to your child that your loved one will have good days and bad days. Reassure your child that he or she is loved — no matter what the future holds.


Despite the changes taking place, children can remain connected to a grandparent with dementia by participating in various activities with them. Examples include listening to music together, looking through old photo albums, painting, watching favorite movies, and playing simple games.

The Mayo Clinic adds, "If your child has trouble talking about the situation or withdraws from the person with Alzheimer's, start a conversation. Ask what changes your child has noticed about the person. This might lead to a talk about your child's feelings and worries. Tell your child it's OK to feel nervous, sad or angry. You might tell your child if you feel that way sometimes, too."

As an additional resource, Maria Shriver's children's book, What's Happening to Grandpa, provides a heartwarming story about a grandparent with dementia. It offers an excellent means of explaining the disease to kids, and book sales benefit the Alzheimer's Association® and its mission.

If you have older children or teenagers, you can ask them to help with their grandparent's care, as well as to spend some quality time with them. Since some teens might feel apprehensive or reluctant, our article, “Making Visits to Loved Ones with Memory Loss Meaningful,” offers useful tips that can make their visits comfortable and helpful.

We encourage you to contact us with any questions you have on dementia care or to schedule a private tour. Also, we invite you to read our timely blog articles on current caregiver and dementia care topics posted on our website.


We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, “How to Talk to Children About a Grandparent's Dementia,” we'd love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.


Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer's disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.


Helping Families Be "Family" Again.

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer's disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn't only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that's needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It's often difficult to be available to care for your loved one's health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. 


For more information, please call Crystal at 484.380.5403 or contact us online. 

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.