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Tips for Kids Visiting Grandparents with Alzheimer’s

Jennifer Wegerer
By Jennifer WegererJanuary 7, 2014

When children visit a grandma or grandpa with Alzheimer’s, they may become scared or confused. But being honest with them in an age-appropriate way can help ease their concerns. They may even feel comfortable playing a role in caregiving.

Tips for Kids Visiting Grandparents with Alzheimer's

It’s hard to know how much to explain to a child when Grandma or Grandpa has Alzheimer’s. Although the grandparent may decline slowly, children will notice subtle changes. Whether it’s a forgotten name, repeating a story or something similar, kids will ask questions.

As the Alzheimer’s Society describes, honesty is the best route to take. Being told the truth helps children develop coping skills. Without knowing the facts, children might blame themselves for Grandma’s or Grandpa’s behavior. They might also feel guilty or scared. 

Tips for the Visit

People with Alzheimer’s benefit from visits, and grandchildren will appreciate the memories. But it’s important to prepare children for what to expect. What can you do to make a visit to a grandma or grandpa with Alzheimer’s go as smoothly as possible? Consider these tips. (Sources: Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Association):

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  • Talk with children ahead of time. Tell them about any changes they might see in Grandma or Grandpa since the last visit. Reassure them that it’s part of the illness and nothing to do with them.
  • Set a time limit for the visit. Young children get tired, so do grandparents. Also, if little ones make a lot of noise, or run up and down the halls, it can be too much for the grandparent.
  • Enjoy activities with the grandparent. Listen to music, play a game, read stories, keep a journal together or do another of 101 activities the Alzheimer’s Association recommends.
  • Give children some caregiving tasks. Get a glass of water for Grandma or Grandpa, read them the newspaper or make a snack. Tasks like these help children feel involved, without taking too much of their time or making them feel overwhelmed. 
  • Present options. If children feel uncomfortable or frightened during the visit, they might prefer sitting on a parent’s lap to an activity with Grandma or Grandpa. Let them find their comfort zone.
  • Don’t leave children in charge. Unless you are certain they can cope with and accept it, don’t leave young children alone or in charge at the visit.
  • Set visits at regular intervals. Alzheimer’s builds gradually. If too much time passes between visits, a child may witness a far more dramatic change in the grandparent’s behavior. Parents might change this practice as a grandparent falls into greater decline or based on a doctor’s recommendation.
  • Talk to children after the visit. Ask if they have any questions. Or help them understand why Grandma or Grandpa might have become upset or confused during the visit.
The Alzheimer’s Association provides a fact sheet and website for helping kids understand Alzheimer’s disease. Other resources include:
What tips do you have for children visiting a grandparent with Alzheimer’s?

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Jennifer Wegerer
Jennifer Wegerer
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