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Explaining Dementia to Children

Dementia is a challenging journey, not only for those directly affected but also for their families, especially the youngest members. Explaining dementia to a child demands sensitivity and awareness, that consider the child’s age as well as their relationship to the person living with dementia. Understanding may vary when it involves a grandparent versus someone younger like a parent or younger relative. In this blog, we will delve into the distinct challenges of broaching this delicate topic and provide practical tips to navigate these difficult conversations.

Explaining Dementia to a Child about a Grandparent:

When dementia touches a grandparent, children may face the difficult task of comprehending a gradual decline in a once-vibrant individual. “Grandpa seems different” or “You asked me that already, Grandma”.  The challenge lies in explaining why Grandma or Grandpa behaves differently and may not remember cherished moments. Here are some practical tips:

  1. Choose the Right Setting: Begin the conversation in a quiet, comfortable space where the child feels secure. Avoid distractions to foster open communication.
  2. Use Age-Appropriate Language: Tailor your language to the child’s age, ensuring they can grasp the concept without feeling overwhelmed. Analogies like a broken computer or a puzzle with missing pieces can help simplify complex ideas.
  3. Highlight Positive Memories: Emphasize the positive memories and characteristics of the grandparent. Encourage the child to share their favorite moments, reinforcing that love remains despite memory lapses.
  4. Encourage Questions: Create an environment where the child feels comfortable asking questions. Be prepared to provide age-appropriate answers, and reassure them that it’s okay not to understand everything.

Explaining Dementia to a Child about Someone Younger:

When dementia affects someone closer in age to the child, the challenge shifts. Understanding why a parent or relative of similar age is experiencing cognitive decline may be even more perplexing. Here are some additional considerations:

  1. Reassure Stability: Younger children may fear losing their primary caregiver. Reassure them that while the person may change, there are still adults who will care for and support them.
  2. Highlight Similarities: Emphasize that dementia does not change the love and shared experiences. Use relatable examples, such as forgetting where they put their toys or needing help with tasks, to create a connection.
  3. Normalize Emotions: Acknowledge the child’s feelings of confusion, sadness, or anger. Help them understand that it’s normal to experience a range of emotions during this challenging time.

Practical Tips for Both Scenarios:

  1. Maintain Routine: Stability is crucial for children, especially during times of change. Ensure that daily routines remain consistent, providing a sense of security.
  2. Involve Them in Care: Depending on the child’s age, involve them in simple caregiving tasks. This fosters a sense of responsibility and inclusion, helping them understand the importance of support. It may also help them new ways to stay connected and continue their relationship.
  3. Seek Professional Guidance: If the child is struggling to cope, consider seeking the assistance of a counselor or therapist specializing in child psychology. Professional guidance can provide coping mechanisms and a safe space for expression.


Explaining dementia to a child is undoubtedly challenging, but with patience, empathy, and open communication, families can navigate this emotional terrain together. Remember that every child is unique and adapting the conversation to their individual needs is crucial.

In times of uncertainty, seeking guidance ensures that families receive the support they need to make informed decisions and provide the best possible care for their loved ones.  For additional support and resources, consider reaching out to Oasis Senior Advisors (914.356.1901 | 475.619.4123 – Their expertise in finding the right care options for those living with dementia can be invaluable.

Oasis Senior Advisors


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Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

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